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Viewing cable 08SANJOSE530, COSTA RICA REQUESTS IMMEDIATE MARITIME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08SANJOSE530 2008-06-18 17:05 2011-03-07 18:06 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/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
VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0530/01 1701751
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181751Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9862
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAGH/COMJTF-B SIMS SOTO CANO HO PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000530 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC AND INL/LP 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2018 
TAGS: PREL PINR MASS MCAP PINS SNAR CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA REQUESTS IMMEDIATE MARITIME 
INTERDICTION ASSISTANCE 
 
REF: A. STATE 03027 
     B. 07 SAN JOSE 2074 
     C. SAN JOSE 287 
 
Classified By: ADCM David E. Henifin for reason 1.4 (b). 
 
======= 
SUMMARY 
======= 
 
1. (C) On June 12, Minister of Public Security Janina Del 
Vecchio told us that Costa Rica desperately needs security 
assistance, especially to reinvigorate the dilapidated Costa 
Rican Coast Guard (SNGC) to help fight narcotrafficking.  She 
requested that all of the planned Merida Initiative funds for 
Costa Rica for FY2008 ($4.3 million) be programmed to 
strengthen the SNGC by purchasing boats, engines, and other 
maintenance issues.  Del Vecchio underscored that Costa Rica 
believes that it is not being treated fairly in comparison 
with other countries in the region, which are "not as close 
allies of the U.S. as Costa Rica."  She alluded that the 
amount of assistance that Costa Rica would receive from 
Merida for the SNGC was insufficient. 
 
2. (C) Del Vecchio was open, candid and strong in her 
presentation and requests.  She was not griping, but 
vigorously describing Costa Rica's top needs.  Del Vecchio 
told us her three main priorities for the next two years 
were: to control Costa Rica's territorial waters and borders 
with regards to drug traffickers; coordinate efforts between 
the police and local communities to combat crime; and to 
change the image of the police in the eyes of the general 
public.  We realize that re-directing all of Costa Rica's 
FY2008 share of Merida funding ($4.3 million) to make the 
SNGC operable and more effective is unlikely.  However, we 
agree with Del Vecchio that the SNGC should receive as much 
assistance as possible as soon as possible.  We stand ready 
to work with Washington colleagues to identify funding 
options for the SNGC.  END SUMMARY. 
 
============================= 
DEL VECCHIO: WE NEED HELP NOW 
============================= 
 
3. (C) We planned to take advantage of Minister of Public 
Security (MPS) Janina Del Vecchio's visa renewal visit to the 
Embassy on June 12 to discuss ongoing/future joint 
cooperation programs, such as Costa Rica's imminent 
participation in the PANAMAX exercise and the imminent 
signing of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 
Search and Rescue (SAR) operations (Ref A).  After a gracious 
opening session thanking the Ambassador and DCM for the 
continued, essential USG CN/law enforcement for Costa Rica, 
however, Del Vecchio quickly turned to her own agenda: frank 
and useful commentary on the Merida Initiative, the state of 
domestic security in the country, and the deplorable 
condition of the assets held by the SNGC. 
 
4. (C) Del Vecchio emphasized that the SNGC needed to be 
strengthened in order to accomplish its interdiction mission, 
in particular by purchasing new boats and engines.  She added 
that the SNGC lacked appropriate equipment in all areas in 
order to perform its counterdrug duties.  She thus requested 
that the planned FY2008 Merida Initiative of $4.3 million of 
support for Costa Rica be totally dedicated to fixing the 
SNGC. 
 
5. (C) We explained that the final amount of Merida support 
for the SNGC in FY2008, currently scheduled to be $1.975 
million, could differ depending on Congressional actions and 
that it was unlikely that there would be any substantive 
changes in the amounts to be allocated for the SNGC. 
However, we pointed out that FY2009 was not that far off and 
the planned amount of $3.8 million of SNGC support in that 
fiscal year could bring the total Merida support for the SNGC 
to nearly $5.8 million over a two-year period, a significant 
amount of assistance. 
 
6. (C) Del Vecchio expressed her concern that Costa Rica's 
12-mile territorial waters were not being patrolled 
appropriately, allowing drug traffickers to unloading their 
cargos easily, which were then picked up by local fishermen 
and stored in warehouses throughout the country.  She also 
was worried that maritime seizures had decreased in the last 
few months, showing a change in the patterns and strategies 
used by the traffickers.  We explained to Del Vecchio, that 
 
in our best judgment, the main reason for the fall in 
seizures in Costa Rica's territorial waters was the fact that 
the SNGC did not have interceptor vessels, and that the 
existing, larger patrol boats could not go faster than 10 
knots and did not have operable radars to safely conduct 
night operations. 
 
7. (C) The GOCR believed, Del Vecchio underscored, that Costa 
Rica was not being treated fairly in comparison with other 
countries in the region, which were "not as close allies to 
the U.S. as Costa Rica."  She argued that Costa Rica should 
be receiving as much assistance as other countries.  Due to 
the fact that Del Vecchio is relatively new on the job, we 
reminded her that Costa Rica had been scheduled to receive 
more assistance in the past but had been blocked by ASPA 
sanctions for the past three years.  For example, new engines 
had been purchased for Costa Rica's 105-foot flagship patrol 
boat, but had to be returned because of the sanctions. 
 
============================ 
THE SCOURGE OF CRACK COCAINE 
============================ 
 
8. (SBU) Repeating a theme echoed earlier this year by Vice 
President Laura Chinchilla (Ref C), Del Vecchio underlined 
that the distribution and use of crack cocaine was her number 
one domestic drug concern.  She requested USG assistance to 
train Costa Rican police to help combat the scourge of crack. 
 (NOTE: We have discussed this topic with Del Vecchio before 
and are exploring several assistance options.  END NOTE.) 
 
======= 
COMMENT 
======= 
 
9. (C) Del Vecchio's increased engagement on security issues 
since her assumption of duties in mid-April is an encouraging 
sign and shows that she is beginning to listen to the 
concerns of many of her operational commanders responsible 
for counternarcotics.  Up to now, she had little substantive 
communication with these "front-line" commanders, who had 
expressed to us privately that they were unsure what priority 
she would place on issues such as counterdrug operations. 
 
10. (C) We realize that re-programming all of the planned 
$4.3 million of FY2008 Merida Initiative support for Costa 
Rica to help make the SNGC operable and more effective is 
unlikely; however, the SNGC should receive as much assistance 
as possible as soon as possible to refurbish their fleet and 
purchase more interceptor vessels in order to conduct 
effective counterdrug interdiction mission.  We stand ready 
to work with Washington colleagues to identify funding 
options for the SNGC. 
 
11. (C) The planned amounts from Merida of $1.975 million for 
FY2008 and $3.8 million for FY2009 to fix the SNGC will 
do much to address maritime deficiencies.  However, without 
sustained maintenance support and regular upgrades to the 
SNGC fleet, no amount of refurbished or new boats will 
address the need to maintain long-term interdiction 
capability in the strategic crossroads of the drug smuggling 
routes that Costa Rica occupies.  Assigning Embassy San Jose 
a full-time maintenance liaison officer, similar to the 
officer assigned here during the USG-funded major expansion 
of the SNGC in 2000-2003, would be highly beneficial (as 
noted in our 2010 MSP).  The SNGC is in dire need of strong 
mid-level managers and leaders who can properly care and take 
ownership of their equipment.  Increased funding to improve 
the SNGC's leadership and professionalization training would 
help ensure, and insure, the effectiveness of our 
counternarcotics investment in Costa Rica. 
CIANCHETTE