Drug War Has Made Costa Rica More Violent: President

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President Laura Chinchilla criticized the current strategy of the war on drugs, saying that it has worsened violence and corruption in her country — something illustrated by recent reports on the rise of “narco-families” in Costa Rica.

“We’ve had about 10 to 15 years of pursuing a strategy with certain characteristics, and in precisely this period, violence, extortion, and corruption in our countries, far from improving, have worsened,” Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said in an interview with Mexican newspaper Excelsior.

Chinchilla said the current drug-control strategy, focused on interdiction, had not worked and had even worsened the situation, “provoking consumption and violence in countries that were once just transit areas.”  

The president called on the United Nations to adopt a greater role in the fight against drug trafficking, and urged the international community to take on the drug trade as a threat to global security, as it has done with terrorism.

InSight Crime Analysis

Costa Rica, which has long been spared the worst effects of the drug trade, is an increasingly important transit hub for cocaine trafficked from South America to Mexico. Recent high profile cases have made the problem especially visible. A group of 18 Mexicans who posed as journalists while they attempted to smuggle $9.2 million in cash through Nicaragua, for instance, had reportedly traveled to Costa Rica several times.

Chinchilla has been critical of the current approach to the war on drugs, saying that she is open to dialogue on alternatives. In an interview last year, she called drug trafficking the greatest threat her country has ever faced.

Costa Rica has dismantled 619 drug trafficking cells since 2006, according to a report by InfoSurHoy, of which nearly one third were “narco-families,” where entire clans, up to the grandparents, were involved in the drug trade. The emergence of narco-families does not bode well for Costa Rica, as many of Mexico’s and Colombia’s largest drug cartels were first built around family units, the director of the Mexico Institute at The Woodrow Wilson Center told InfoSurHoy.  

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