Since the early 1980s Costa Rica has served as a transit point for drugs passing from South America into Mexico and the U.S. However, recent news and intelligence reports show that—within the last few years—transnational crime (especially drug trafficking and money laundering) in the country is evolving and becoming more sophisticated.2 This case study will detail these changes and explain how the increased dexterity and potency of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs)—primarily drug trafficking organizations (DTOs)—threaten Costa Rican and U.S. national security. The ultimate
purpose of this analysis is to assess if TCOs operating in Costa Rica could plausibly collaborate with known terrorist groups in the smuggling of radiological and nuclear (RN) materials in the Latin America and Caribbean region.
This case study is the culmination of open-source and field research about TCOs operating in Costa Rica and the Government of Costa Rica’s (GOCR) response to weaken and dismantle their scope and power. Several types of transnational crime were considered for this report. Because of Costa Rica’s strong tradition of democracy3 and overall economic stability, there is a robust and thriving services industry fueled mainly by tourism.4 Under this rubric the author considered animal and human trafficking (especially of women and children), given the country’s biodiversity and popularity with childsex tourists, respectively.5 However, animal trafficking (principally tortoises) seems to be largely locally based and tied to cultural norms,6 and human trafficking is relatively small-scale, with no known ties to
major human-trafficking rings, or to other major TCOs.7,8 Furthermore, there have been cases of arms trafficking in the country, but these are similarly smaller in scale (though the author offers further detail starting on page 20).9
Due to the overwhelming pervasiveness of drug trafficking and money laundering, the author will devote considerable data and analysis in this report to these types of crimes and the TCOs that commit them. While there are examples of Costa Rican nationals and foreigners alike who have committed money-laundering crimes without ties to drug trafficking, nearly all available cases that are transnational in nature involve DTOs, which strongly suggests a nexus between the former and these two activities. Given this body of data, therefore, attention will center largely on DTOs, their activity, and the GOCR’s response to them. Specifically, the author will analyze DTO operations since the early
1980s, how they have evolved, and GOCR initiatives to weaken these DTOs and curb both drug trafficking and money laundering.
Detailed report link: click here