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Viewing cable 08SANJOSE868, COSTA RICA APPRECIATIVE OF MERIDA PLAN, DESPITE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08SANJOSE868 2008-11-03 23:11 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
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0868/01 3082302
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 032302Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0240
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAGH/COMJTF-B SIMS SOTO CANO HO PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/DIRJIATF SOUTH  PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000868 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC AND INL/LP; 
PANAMA ALSO FOR LEGATT 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2018 
TAGS: CS PGOV PHUM PINR PREL SNAR
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA APPRECIATIVE OF MERIDA PLAN, DESPITE 
PRESIDENT'S COMPLAINTS 
 
REF: A. SAN JOSE 389 
     B. SAN JOSE 586 
     C. SAN JOSE 596 
 
Classified By: DCM Peter M. Brennan for reason 1.4(d). 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In our detailed briefings since October 1, 
senior members of the GOCR in all three branches of 
government, plus some opposition legislators, have reacted 
positively and appreciatively to the Merida Initiative.  This 
positive private reaction has contrasted sharply to President 
Arias' repeated public complaints about the paucity of USG 
assistance, including Merida (septel).  However, most of our 
interlocutors politely suggested that far more assistance is 
needed to deal with the deteriorating domestic security 
environment here.  As in other prospective Merida recipient 
countries, they also wanted to know when the assistance would 
actually start flowing.  Our briefees included, among others, 
former Vice-President/Minister of Justice Laura Chinchilla; 
Minister of Public Security Janina Del Vecchio; President of 
the Supreme Court Luis Paulino Mora; and key members of the 
national legislature from the committees most interested in 
Merida issues.  END SUMMARY. 
 
==================================== 
MERIDA BRIEFINGS WELL RECEIVED . . . 
==================================== 
 
2. (U) While waiting for the Merida funding details to be 
hammered out in Washington, we used the month of October to 
brief all three branches of government.  From the executive 
branch, we briefed the Ministry of the Presidency, Ministry 
of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, the Costa Rican Drug 
Institute (ICD, roughly equivalent to the U.S. ONDCP), and 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  From the judicial branch, 
we briefed the President of the Supreme Court and the 
Director of the Judicial Police.  From the national 
parliament, our audience was four members from the key 
counternarcotics and domestic security committees. 
3. (SBU) All were grateful for the assistance that Merida 
would bring, but emphasized that much more was needed to 
truly put domestic security on the right path in Costa Rica. 
None complained about the 15 percent reporting requirement 
related to human rights issues.  We made a point of 
assembling an inter-agency team (State, DoD or USCG and DEA) 
to conduct these briefings, to underscore Merida's holistic 
approach. 
 
4. (SBU) Due to the decentralized manner in which Costa Rica 
approaches law enforcement issues, we will have to sign 
Letters of Agreement (LOA) with four separate ministries to 
implement Merida.  The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) will 
receive the lion's share of funding, and will sign the 
biggest LOA, covering four of the seven specific programs for 
Costa Rica from FY 2008-appropriated Merida funds: Regional 
Maritime Interdiction, Improved Policing/Police Equipment, 
Improved Border Inspection, and OAS Stockpile Management and 
Destruction.  The other three LOAs will be signed with the 
Supreme Court, the Ministry of the Presidency/ICD, and the 
Ministry of Justice (see details below). 
 
======================= 
BY THE MINISTRIES . . . 
======================= 
 
5. (SBU) Minister Del Vecchio appreciated the briefing and 
instructed her operational commanders to work with us to 
develop the best spending plans possible, particularly with 
the police assistance funds.  We plan to concentrate that 
funding on improving police communications, purchasing 
vehicles with off-road capabilities, police 
professionalization training, and improvement of the K-9 
units.  The spending plans for maritime activities are well 
known and covered in Refs and the Merida documents. 
 
6. (SBU) The Ministry of the Presidency, via the ICD, will 
direct the Center for Drug Crime Intelligence (CDI).  VM for 
Security Issues Jose Torres told us he had received a 
regional-level briefing on the Merida Initiative in Honduras 
recently and thanked us for our focus on the bilateral 
aspects of the plan.  Torres believed the plan was "just what 
 
Costa Rica needed," though he agreed that more assistance was 
necessary.  ICD will manage the CDI in coordination with the 
two other major entities that will be connected to the 
Center, the Drug Control Police (PCD) and the Narcotics 
Section of the Judicial Police (OIJ). 
 
7. (SBU) Although not directly involved in Merida, we briefed 
Alex Solano, Deputy Director for Foreign Policy, and relevant 
senior MFA officials.  They also welcomed the briefing, in 
particular because the other GOCR agencies involved had not 
shared Merida details.  We stressed to Solano and his team 
that President Arias' continued public criticism of Merida 
would not work in Costa Rica's favor.  Our interlocutors "got 
it," and Solano in particular appreciated that Costa Rica 
only had limited absorptive capacity to use security 
assistance productively. 
 
8. (SBU) We also explained the 15 percent reporting 
requirement, which was of particular interest to FM Bruno 
Stagno (who had earlier asked the Ambassador for details). 
Addressing Stagno's specific concerns, we highlighted that 
Mexico did not have lighter requirements than the Central 
American countries, and noted that Costa Rica, because of its 
well-known record on human rights, should be able to meet the 
15 percent requirement easily. 
 
9. (SBU) We briefed then-Minister of Justice (and then-Vice 
President) Chinchilla on the Merida initiative because prison 
management falls under the MOJ.  Speaking of CAFE, Chinchilla 
stressed that Costa Rica's fingerprint network needed to be 
digitized to interconnect various domestic security services, 
including OIJ, Fuerza Publica (the regular cops), and the 
penitentiary system.  VM Fernando Ferraro explained that the 
GOCR did not even have accurate fingerprints (and therefore 
accurate identities) of many of the prisoners in the national 
penal system.  He hoped that CAFE might help address this 
problem. 
 
10. (U) NOTE: Chinchilla has since resigned from both jobs as 
Minister of Justice and Vice-President to pursue her party's 
nomination for President in 2010.  We plan to brief the new 
Minister of Justice, Viviana Martin, soon.  END NOTE. 
 
===================== 
BY THE JUDICIARY. . . 
===================== 
 
11. (SBU) The Supreme Court, via the Judicial Police (OIJ; a 
rough equivalent to the FBI), will be responsible for the 
integration of the Central American Fingerprint Exchange 
(CAFE) system.  Supreme Court President Mora appreciated the 
brief and instructed the Director of OIJ, Jorge Rojas, to 
take the lead for the GOCR on CAFE.  Along with our FBI 
regional attache in Panama, we will coordinate with OIJ to 
get Costa Rica on board. 
 
============================ 
AND BY THE LEGISLATURE . . . 
============================ 
 
12. (SBU) In a wide-ranging briefing on law enforcement and 
counternarcotics issues, legislators Federico Tinoco (PLN, 
Chairman of the Counternarcotics Committee), Luis Antonio 
Barrantes (ML, Chairman of the Domestic Security Committee); 
Marvin Rojas (PAC, ex-Chairman of the CN Committee); and 
Olivier Perez (PAC, member of the Domestic Security 
Committee) appreciated our transparency on Merida.  Perez, a 
judge by background, agreed that the 15 percent eporting 
requirement was a reasonable mechanism o ensure compliance 
with human rights protections in the region.  Although from 
opposing parties, all four legislators agreed that law 
enforcement and security issues should generate multi-party 
cooperation, instead of partisan bickering. 
 
======================= 
BUT, SHOW US THE MONEY! 
======================= 
 
13. (SBU) While we anticipated questions on Merida's 15 
percent "reporting requirements," all interlocutors were far 
more concerned to put the plan into effect as soon as 
 
possible.  All entities that would sign LOAs were anxious to 
get the process moving and asked us when we could expect to 
receive funding.  We explained that the process was on-going 
and that we expected to receive draft LOAs soon from the 
INL-funded programs.  Similar letters from DoD, covering the 
re-started FMF program in Costa Rica (which will fund 
equipment for the coast guard), may take longer to generate 
and complete.  (NOTE: On October 31 the Costa Rican Chief of 
Police, Erick Lacayo, politely asked us again when the Merida 
funding would begin.  Lacayo, who will be joined by VM 
Marcela Chacon and Coast Guard Director Martin Arias, will 
travel to El Salvador on November 6-7 for the SICA/Merida 
meeting.  We expect the Costa Rica delegation to push for 
speedy delivery of Merida funding as well as inquire about 
future funding amounts for FY2009 and FY2010 from Merida. 
END NOTE.) 
 
======= 
COMMENT 
======= 
 
14. (C) We have quietly but firmly pushed back against 
President Oscar Arias' continued complaints that Merida is 
"stingy".  His sentiments have not been strongly endorsed nor 
loudly echoed by the ministers and their teams who will make 
Merida a reality here.  Many acknowledge that the President 
is following his own course, and not taking others' council 
these days.  However, GOCR security officials know they need 
help, and for them, more help is always better, and USG help 
is preferred.  The best way to demonstrate our talking point 
that "Merida FY08 is only a down payment," to provide the 
tools Costa Rica needs to help itself, and to counter Arias' 
complaints, is to start delivering the assistance as promised. 
CIANCHETTE