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Viewing cable 07SANJOSE69, THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION: FORMER GUERRILLAS TURNED

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07SANJOSE69 2007-01-12 22:10 2011-03-08 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2702320.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2702324.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702325.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702326.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702327.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0069/01 0122243
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 122243Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6993
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 3835
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000069 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/AND, S/CT, INL AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/02/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PTER PINR PREF PHUM SNAR CS XK
SUBJECT: THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION: FORMER GUERRILLAS TURNED 
CRIMINALS IN COSTA RICA 
 
Classified By: Amb. Mark Langdale for reason 1.4 (d). 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  Costa Rican authorities are increasingly 
worried about the criminal activities of former Colombian 
guerrillas operating in Costa Rica and, as a result, have 
stepped up efforts to extradite/deport them.  On December 21, 
FARC member Hector Orlando Martinez Quinto was delivered to 
GOC authorities on San Andres Island, Colombia.  Martinez was 
wanted in Colombia for his suspected participation in at 
least two FARC massacres.  Former M-19 guerrilla Libardo 
Parra Vargas was arrested in Costa Rica on March 15, 2006, 
although his possible extradition to Colombia is complicated 
by money laundering charges he faces in Costa Rica.  As GOCR 
officials become more aware of the security threat posed by 
illicit traffickers, including transplanted Colombians, they 
are more open to international security cooperation. 
However, their efforts to address the threat are hampered by 
lack of resources and often hamstrung by their own legal 
system.  END SUMMARY. 
 
Hector Martinez 
--------------- 
2.  (SBU) Martinez began visiting Costa Rica in 1997.  After 
reportedly participating in a 1999 massacre of 47 police 
officers in Jurado, Colombia, Martinez moved to Costa Rica. 
In a clear case of fraud, he obtained Costa Rican residency 
on May 29, 2000, just 20 days after a sham marriage, despite 
his failure to present a police records-check from Colombia. 
(Normal processing for residency takes a year or more after 
providing all required documentation.)  Five Costa Rican 
immigration officials are under investigation for their 
handling of the case. 
 
3.  (SBU) In addition to the Jurado massacre, Martinez was 
also wanted by Colombian authorities in connection with his 
alleged participation in the May 2, 2002 massacre at Bojaya 
which killed a number of women and children.  Martinez kept a 
very low profile in Costa Rica, working as a small-scale 
fisherman until his arrest in Puntarenas on August 10, 2006. 
Colombian and Costa Rican authorities suspect Martinez 
remained active in the FARC, while living in Costa Rica, 
trafficking narcotics throughout the region to generate cash 
and acquire weapons.  According to news reports, Panamanian 
officials also consider Martinez, who has family in Ciudad 
Colon, to be the head of the "Jose Maria Cordoba Bloc" of the 
FARC operating there.  Costa Rican officials viewed Martinez 
as a national security threat and were anxious to return him 
to Colombia where he faces a lengthy prison term. 
 
4.  (C) Martinez and his lawyers easily gamed Costa Rica's 
onerous extradition system until immigration officials, at 
our suggestion, re-examined his claim to residency. 
Considering the fraud angle as too weak a grounds for 
deportation (see paragraph 12), immigration officials instead 
established that Martinez had failed to renew his residency 
in 2005.  He was then quickly deported.  Due to fears of a 
possible FARC rescue attempt (see paragraph 9), Martinez was 
moved under heavy guard from his maximum-security cell in the 
La Reforma prison, fingerprinted in the presence of his 
lawyer, a Costa Rican judge and Colombian police, then flown 
to San Andres Island, where he was handed over to Colombian 
authorities on December 21, 2006. 
 
5.  (SBU) News of the deportation was leaked to the press 
even before planning meetings had concluded.  By coincidence, 
Poloff was with Vice Minister for Public Security Rafael 
Gutierrez on December 19 when Colombian Embassy officials 
arrived to coordinate the deportation.  The Colombians had 
just ended a meeting with judicial branch officials.  Before 
the Colombian attache finished underscoring the need for 
operational security, journalists were already calling the 
Vice Minister for a statement on the upcoming deportation. 
 
Libardo Parra 
------------- 
6. (C) Like Martinez, Parra kept a low profile in Costa Rica, 
running a small liquor import business.  Parra was tried in 
absentia in Colombia in 2004 and given a 24-year sentence for 
his role in the 1995 kidnapping of a businessman.  When 
arrested in Costa Rica on March 15, 2006 by Interpol, Parra 
tried to bribe the arresting officers with $40,000 in cash he 
had concealed in his vehicle.  Not only did the officers 
refuse, but they used the attempted bribe to obtain a search 
warrant for Parra's house, business, and farm.  The searches 
turned up $1.4 million in cash, 25 cell phones, radio 
equipment, and large quantities of food and mattresses that 
indicated Parra's involvement with the clandestine movement 
of people.  (Parra was arrested in Nicaragua in 1999 on 
 
charges of trafficking in persons, but was released for lack 
of evidence.)  Drug-sniffing dogs detected traces of 
narcotics on the cash seized at Parra's warehouse.  V/Min. 
Gutierrez believes Parra's higher level of activity and 
organization indicate he was a much bigger fish than Martinez. 
 
7.  (C) Unlike Martinez, Parra did not attempt to legalize 
his status in Costa Rica.  Instead, he used false Guatemalan 
and Nicaraguan identities (Parra owns a gas station and 
another farm in Nicaragua) to avoid detection.  One of 
Parra's false Nicaraguan identities was positively 
established during a joint U.S.-Costa Rican narcotics 
investigation.  Costa Rican intelligence was then able to 
track Parra when he next entered the country.  Parra's 
business and property were registered to his Colombian 
girlfriend, Ofelia Acevedo Estevez, who had moved to Costa 
Rica.  Like Martinez, Acevedo obtained Costa Rican residency 
through a sham marriage. 
 
8.  (C) Parra's case is being handled by a team of GOCR 
counter-terrorism prosecutors due to his M-19 membership and 
the fact that his small business could not have reasonably 
generated the amount of money seized.  Parra was ordered 
extradited to Colombia last July, but the order was suspended 
until he is tried in Costa Rican courts on money laundering 
charges.  V/Min. Gutierrez is concerned that if Parra is 
convicted (and the evidence appears strong), the Costa Rican 
judicial system might refuse to extradite Parra until he 
serves the 8 to 20-year sentence.  Gutierrez is quietly, and 
he believes successfully, lobbying Supreme Court Justices for 
a quick extradition on grounds that Parra is too dangerous to 
hold. 
 
How to Hand Off "Hot Coals" 
--------------------------- 
9.  (SBU) The Ministry of Justice (which runs the prison 
system) and the Ministry of Public Security have publicly 
expressed concern about Costa Rica's ability to secure 
high-profile Colombian detainees, especially those with ties 
to narcotics trafficking.  Public Security Minister Berrocal 
recently compared keeping Martinez and Parra in Costa Rica to 
holding "hot coals" in his hands.  The Minister's fears have 
some merit.  In August, 2006, 10 heavily armed individuals 
successfully assaulted a prison transport vehicle to free 
Colombian drug trafficker Ricaurte Villasanta Restrepo.  The 
transport was empty only because Villasanta was not sent to 
the usual hospital when he faked an illness as part of the 
escape plan.  Two months later, in October, a group of eight 
prisoners escaped from La Reforma. 
 
10.  (C) One solution, as the Martinez case illustrates, is 
to accelerate extradition or deportation of Colombian drug 
traffickers being held in Costa Rica's creaky prison system. 
Minister Berrocal was pleased and relieved by the successful 
deportation of Martinez after efforts to extradite him had 
failed.  He and other officials are actively looking for 
other ways to get rid of other imprisoned Colombian narcotics 
traffickers. 
 
11.  (SBU) A better solution would be not to grant residency 
to foreign criminals in the first place, but the GOCR has 
found this to be a challenge.  Berrocal traveled to Colombia 
in September, 2006, to request assistance with screening 
criminal backgrounds of Colombian refugees.  Between 1998 and 
2000, over 10,000 Colombians were granted refugee status in 
Costa Rica with little or no scrutiny.  The UNHCR and IMO 
were seldom involved except for rare cases where Colombian 
refugees in Costa Rica requested resettlement in a third 
country.  Despite visa requirements implemented in 2002, the 
flow of Colombians requesting refugee status in Costa Rica 
did not begin to decline until 2005.  While Berrocal readily 
acknowledges that the vast majority of Colombian refugees in 
Costa Rica deserve their status, it is also highly likely 
that many criminals took advantage of this wide open door. 
The Martinez case showed that Costa Rican residency is also 
too easily obtained through sham marriages. 
 
12. (SBU) Immigration Director Mario Zamora has been fighting 
an uphill battle in the judicial system to deny Costa Rican 
residency claims based on such marriages.  Opposing Zamora 
are a number of law firms that earn tidy sums from this 
practice.  Since Zamora upped the ante in late November by 
raiding 22 of the largest of these law firms, the courts 
increasingly have ruled against sham marriages.  However, 
more than half of Zamora's decisions to deny residency in 
these cases are still being overturned in court. 
 
COMMENT 
 
------- 
13.  (C) The improving security cooperation between Costa 
Rica and Coombia is a positive development and a step 
forwad for the Arias Administration's security policy. 
After seven months in office, Berrocal has come full circle 
from advocating that Costa Rica focus oly on its domestic 
narcotics problem to appreciaing that international 
narcotics trafficking, an unsavory participants such as 
Martinez and Parr, pose direct threats to Costa Rican 
security.  Callenges remain, however.  The GOCR does not 
kno nearly enough about the activities of other Colomians 
operating in Costa Rica.  Berrocal and his advisers fear that 
narcotics-for-arms trafficking through Costa Rica may 
increase given the election results in Nicaragua.  Although 
Costa Rican authorities are more inclined than ever to 
cooperate against all forms of illegal trafficking, they 
remain hampered by lack of resources and often hamstrung by 
their own judicial system. 
LANGDALE