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Viewing cable 08SANJOSE287, COSTA RICA: NEW MINISTER OF PUBLIC SECURITY DEL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08SANJOSE287 2008-04-17 22:10 2011-03-07 18:06 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 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/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702325.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2702324.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702326.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-06/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2702327.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0025
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0287/01 1082237
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 172237Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9603
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4230
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000287 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, INR AND INL/LP 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR SNAR CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: NEW MINISTER OF PUBLIC SECURITY DEL 
VECCHIO 
 
REF: SAN JOSE 263 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY.  President Arias has appointed National 
Liberation Party legislator Janina Del Vecchio as the new 
Minister of Public Security. She took office on April 15, 
replacing Fernando Berrocal, who was dismissed on March 30 
after making controversial remarks about possible FARC 
connections in Costa Rica.  Although criticized for having no 
previous law enforcement experience, Del Vecchio possesses 
strong leadership credentials from her skillful handling of 
CAFTA legislation in the National Assembly and has the full 
backing of Arias, who had wanted to put a woman in the 
position.  In her first public appearance (as 
Minister-designate), Del Vecchio told police graduates on 
April 10 that Costa Rica needed to be "tough on crime."  She 
has softened that message in subsequent interviews, however, 
suggesting that the perception of the domestic security 
problem in Costa Rica is greater than reality.  (We and 
leading GOCR law enforcement professionals disagree.)  Charge 
and Emboffs will meet with Del Vecchio on April 23 to outline 
our law enforcement cooperation programs and to encourage the 
same close relationship we had developed with Berrocal.  See 
bio info (para 13).  END SUMMARY. 
 
================= 
MEET THE NEW BOSS 
================= 
 
2. (U) On April 3, four days after Minister of Public 
Security Fernando Berrocal resigned over the controversy 
surrounding his allegations of FARC ties to the Costa Rican 
political sector (reftel), President Arias named National 
Liberation Party (PLN) legislator Janina Del Vecchio as the 
new Minister of Public Security.  Del Vecchio took charge of 
the Ministry on April 15. 
 
3. (SBU) President Arias told us on April 1, during DAS 
Madison's recent visit to Costa Rica (septel), that he 
preferred to name a woman as the next Minister of Public 
Security.  He had offered the job to Del Vecchio on March 31, 
the day after Berrocal resigned, but she did not accept until 
late on April 2.  Del Vecchio made the president's short list 
primarily because of her determined and skillful handling of 
CAFTA legislation as Chair of the legislature's International 
Relations Committee and her loyalty and responsiveness to 
Arias.  (Del Vecchio's committee sent the CAFTA ratification 
legislation to the Plenary for action in December 2006, the 
only completed legislative action on CAFTA until after it was 
ratified by referendum in October 2007.) 
 
====================================== 
LACK OF SECURITY EXPERIENCE QUESTIONED 
====================================== 
 
4. (U) Del Vecchio's lack of experience in security affairs 
has been highlighted by local media and "talking heads."  For 
instance, a local TV station interviewed a mother whose son 
was recently murdered on the streets of San Jose.  The mother 
questioned Del Vecchio's lack of law enforcement credentials 
and asked how a former school teacher could possibly be 
qualified to deal with violent crime. 
 
5. (U) However, Del Vecchio would not be the first Minister 
to come into the job with little to no law enforcement 
experience.  Berrocal himself had no previous experience, nor 
did current Vice President Laura Chinchilla when she was 
Minister of Public Security in the late 1990s.  President 
Arias underlined her strengths in leadership, honesty, 
enthusiasm for her job, character, and loyalty to serve her 
country.  With Del Vecchio's accession into Arias' Cabinet, 
there are now six women and 12 men in cabinet-level positions. 
 
==================== 
TOUGH TALK, AT FIRST 
==================== 
 
6. (U) In an interview with leading daily La Nacion on April 
7, Del Vecchio acknowledged the difficulties that Costa Rica 
faced with the deteriorating domestic security situation and 
said she understood that improving security was now the 
number one issue with citizens.  Highlighting the addition of 
nearly 1200 new police officers to the force in the coming 
weeks and days, Del Vecchio said she would continue with 
Berrocal's plan to put more officers on the street.  She said 
the idea for successful policing was not only for cops to 
 
walk the beat, but to talk to citizens and hear their needs 
and concerns.  She added that laws must be strengthened and 
she would work with the Assembly to accomplish that.  As 
Ambassador to Switzerland, Del Vecchio said she had observed 
the positive impact of strong criminal laws and respect for 
the law; this could be a model for Costa Rica. 
 
7. (U) On April 10, during a graduation ceremony of new Costa 
Rican police officers, Del Vecchio (as minister-designate) 
gave a strong anti-crime speech, emphasizing the fight 
against narcotrafficking, TIP, sexual 
exploitation of women and children, and organized crime.  She 
said she would support putting more resources into 
fighting the root causes of crime.  Above all, she stressed, 
hung the challenge of addressing the public's fear of 
domestic insecurity in Costa Rica. 
 
8. (U) In a brief televised address to the nation later the 
same day, President Arias highlighted how seriously he took 
the security situation and threw his full support behind Del 
Vecchio.  He emphasized that she was capable of making tough 
decisions, and had unquestionable integrity.  Arias asked the 
people to trust his decisions and to "trust in our women" 
(alluding to other high-profile women in his cabinet, such as 
VP, Minister of Justice and presidential hopeful Chinchilla). 
 He said that Del Vecchio had "talent, but above all 
bravery." 
 
9. (U) In interviews since taking office, however, Del 
Vecchio has questioned whether the domestic security problem 
is as bad as the public believes, and asserted that the 
perception is worse than the reality.  She has also implied 
that there is little or no nexus between drug trafficking 
through Costa Rican territory and rising domestic crime. 
"The nation needs action and concrete decisions" she told the 
media at a press conference on April 15, but "we have no 
reason to be alarmed."  The media (and some key law 
enforcement personnel, such as Judicial Police Director Jorge 
Rojas) were quick to point out that deteriorating crime 
statistics, and not perception, fueled the public's concerns. 
 
====================== 
NEW MINISTER, NEW TEAM 
====================== 
 
10. (SBU) Del Vecchio's arrival has seen a number of seasoned 
security personnel depart, with all the changes not yet 
completed. Of the three vice ministers, Rafael Gutierrez 
(police issues) rendered his resignation, effective May 1. 
VM Gerardo Lascarez (counternarcotics issues and law 
enforcement liaison) has agreed to stay on until December, 
but might leave sooner.  VM Ana Duran (government and 
immigration) will remain.  Vice Minister of the Presidency 
for Security Issues, Jose Torres, will likely wear two hats, 
filling in for Gutierrez in the short term while remaining in 
his current position in his current ministry.  Erick Lacayo 
(a long-time and excellent Embassy contact) will be the new 
head of the uniformed police.  The current heads of the coast 
guard and air unit are expected to remain (which is also good 
news from our perspective). 
 
======= 
COMMENT 
======= 
 
11. (SBU) One of Del Vecchio's first challenges will be the 
continuing saga of possible FARC ties to Costa Rica.  The 
resolution (or lack thereof) of this issue, which cost 
Berrocal his job, could set the tone for her stewardship of 
the Ministry.  However, the "bread and butter" issues on 
which the Costa Rican people will judge her will be the 
increase or decrease of violent crime, including carjackings, 
home invasions, murders and assaults. 
 
12. (SBU) Although Del Vecchio has no previous law 
enforcement or security experience, her April 10 speech 
indicated that she would be "tough on crime" and not afraid 
to address the ills that undermine Costa Rica's image as a 
land of paradise.  We hope so.  Her later comments suggest 
she has much to learn about the true (and worsening) security 
situation here.  As our Consul General puts it, "Costa Rica 
may not be dangerous when compared to the rest of the region 
but it is no longer safe."  We anticipate that our current 
level of excellent cooperation with Costa Rican law 
enforcement entities will continue with Del Vecchio as 
 
minister.  We will meet with her on April 23 to engage on 
important bilateral security topics, including the 
long-pending CNIES agreement, the Merida Initiative, and the 
activities of the FARC in Costa Rica. 
 
======================== 
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 
======================== 
 
13. (SBU) Janina Del Vecchio Ugalde was born April 4, 1946 in 
San Jose, Costa Rica.  Before becoming Minister, she was 
a deputy (legislator) for Arias' National Liberation Party 
(PLN).  Her previous jobs include: Assistant Dean for 
Academic Affairs at the University of Costa Rica (UCR); Chief 
of Cabinet for the first Arias Administration (1986-90), 
Ambassador to Spain, the Vatican, Malta, and Switzerland; and 
Chairperson of the Geneva Chapter of the G-77.  Del Vecchio 
is a Professor of Mathematics with post-graduate degrees in 
Education and Educational Management from UCR.  During her 
tenure as a legislator, she was the President of the National 
Assembly's International Affairs Committee (equivalent to the 
U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign 
Relations Committee).  Del Vecchio is married to Jose Manuel 
Bouzon Cea (54 years old), a Spaniard, and has one son, Juan 
Carlos Hidalgo del Vecchio (43 years old), from her first 
marriage. 
BRENNAN