Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, which have been using Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as drug-trafficking transit points, have added Costa Rica, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Costa Rica, which attracts millions of tourists, has also drawn traffickers bringing cocaine north from South America. “Our geography has us prisoner,” President Laura Chinchilla told the newspaper.
According to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, issued last week by the U.S. State Department, Costa Rica faces drug crime and violence because of its “inadequate resources and complicated bureaucracy.” It urged the country to pass laws that target criminal groups.
Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry says the country’s antidrug police seized 15.5 tons of cocaine in 2012, worth more than $2 billion on the street in the United States. That was more than doubled the amount seized the previous year.
More than 80 percent of South American cocaine brought to the United States was moved through Central America, according to the State Department report. In the 1980s, most cocaine went through the Caribbean.
President Chinchilla, along with other regional leaders, has called for a debate on the legalization of drugs to help reduce demand and violence.
“The levels of violence and criminality have not reached the level that have in the north of Central America,” Adriana Beltrán, a senior associate at the think tank Washington Office on Latin America, told the newspaper. “They can address this without it having to get to that critical point.”