“Morogris” for Borderland Beat

The Costa Rican Coast Guard with the support of the United States intercepted a vessel carrying 431 kg of cocaine off Limón province, on August 8, 2022. Many of these operations are supported by the Sinaloa Cartel (Image credit: Costa Rican Public Security Ministry)

The influence of Mexican criminal gangs and the increase in cocaine production in Colombia following the 2016 peace agreements have led to a surge in murders in Costa Rica. These murders threaten to reach their highest levels in history by the end 2023, according to data provided by the Minister of Security of Costa. For decades, Costa Rica had been recognized as an oasis of safety in the region.

Last. year Costa Rica had 656 homicides. It now has a homicide approximately every 10 hours. In the first half of 2023 alone, the official data shows that the number of murders has already surpassed that of the first half of the previous year by 42 percent.

“We are witnessing a ‘Mexicanization’ of crime…” said security expert Mario Zamora in an interview with Reuters. This increase in drug violence is a concern for Costa Rican citizens and politicians because it negatively impacts the country’s reputation given its heavy reliance on tourism.

The official explained that ten years ago, when the spiral of violence began, many of the gruesome criminal practices like torture and brazen displays of execution, were not present. He believes that these methods were “trained” and copied from Mexican drug cartels.

Turf wars

Two-thirds of the current homicides are related to the ongoing war between local gangs employing new forms of violence as they vie for control over markets, routes, and territories. Zamora describes this as a “historic moment” for public security in Costa Rica.

Zamora says that the operations of the Sinaloa Cartel in Central America have influenced Costa Rican groups that receive drugs from Colombian gangs as partial payment for logistical services in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica serves as a location to store part of the drug supply before being sent to the United States and Europe for further distribution.

“While we do not produce drugs, Costa Rica has become the largest platform in the world for exporting drugs to third parties,” Zamora said in an interview.

Drug points in Costa Rica

In 2023, 10 tons of cocaine reached the shores of Europe concealed within shipments of fruits that departed from the main Costa Rican port, Moín, located in the Caribbean. Last week, the Costa Rican government initiated a security operation at the port, deploying a hundred police officers to scan 100% of the merchandise.

Limón, the Costa Rican province where Moin is situated, is the most violent region in the country, with a homicide rate of 33 per 100,000 inhabitants, nearly three times the national average.

“Today, we have a foothold of this Mexicanization in Costa Rica, but it has not yet become a widespread phenomenon across the entire territory. It is mainly concentrated in criminal gangs in the province of Limón and specific focal points,” Zamora said.

Zamora explained that there is a pressing need to eradicate these levels of violence before they become entrenched in Costa Rica’s criminal landscape.

Source: Milenio