[OS] US/GUATEMALA/BELIZE/HONDURAS/NICARAGUA/COSTA RICA/PANAMA/EL SALVADOR/CT – 6/20 – US in new push against drugs in Central America

Released on 2013-02-13 00:00 GMT

Email-ID 3008353
Date 2011-06-21 15:30:18
From brian.larkin@stratfor.com
To os@stratfor.com

US in new push against drugs in Central America
June 20, 2011

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gxHKRXNKscqU_7xNRAYDD5XnGpTg?docId=CNG.f6e4cf8f7bcbf9e0be98991770b9f79b.c21

WASHINGTON – The United States will discuss efforts to be a “more
effective” partner with Central America in fighting drug trafficking when
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Guatemala Wednesday, aides said.

The chief US diplomat, aides said Monday, will visit Guatemala City to
discuss a counternarcotics strategy with the leaders of Guatemala, Belize,
El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Other leaders or top officials attending the talks will represent Mexico,
Colombia, Chile, Spain and the European Union, they added.

Clinton has “been concerned about the situation in Central America for
some time,” Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant secretary of state for
Western Hemisphere affairs, told reporters.

As Mexico has tried to fight its drug trafficking scourge, drug mafias
have increasingly pushed south into Central America and countries like
Guatemala and Belize have seen a surge in violence that they seem almost
powerless to stop.

Clinton has “been pushing for greater engagement on the part of the United
States since she began to focus on these issues some time ago,” Valenzuela
said.

However, he said, the meeting will not amount to a donors’ conference and
will instead focus on using existing resources better.

“The question is: Is the funding being used strategically in the
appropriate way? And that?s what we?re going to be addressing in this
meeting,” Valenzuela said.

“The various donors have been pledging monies now for some time in
different kinds of categories,” he added.

“The secretary may announce how we?re repackaging some of our own
assistance,” in support of the counternarcotics strategies of the region’s
countries, he said.

“We want to be more effective partners in carrying out their expectations,
which of course, is also in our fundamental interest,” Valenzuela said,
referring to US efforts to fight drug traffickers traveling north.

Washington cooperates with Central America, which UN figures say is the
world’s most violent region outside of war zones, through the Central
American Regional Security Initiative, with a budget of 260 million
dollars.

Clinton’s main concern is organized crime and its threat to the
continent’s democratic institutions, particularly those in Central
America, said Michael Shifter, who heads the Inter-American Dialogue, a
DC-based think tank.

“When she thinks about the region, it is what concerns her most, and I
believe she wants to achieve a concrete result to contain and respond to
this growing criminality in Central America,” Shifter told AFP.

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[OS] COSTA RICA/CHINA/ECON – Costa Rica can be trade hub for China

Released on 2013-02-13 00:00 GMT

Email-ID 4824882
Date 2011-09-13 15:44:53
From santos@stratfor.com
To os@stratfor.com

Costa Rica can be trade hub for China
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2011-09/13/content_13671035.htm

Updated: 2011-09-13 10:37

By Li Jiabao (China Daily)
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1
Central American diplomat courts investors with country’s many FTAs
XIAMEN, Fujian – Chinese investors seeking a platform to enter the markets
of the Americas should consider Costa Rica, given its numerous trade
advantages and economic diversity, the country’s ambassador to China said
on Sept 9.
“The key word of Costa Rica’s economy development is diversification. We
will shift our efforts from the electronics industry to the high-tech,
renewable- and clean-energy industries,” Marco Ruiz, the Costa Rican
ambassador to China, said during the 15th China International Fair for
Investment and Trade in Xiamen, Fujian province, from Sept 7 to 11.
Pilar Madrigal, director of International Affairs at the Costa Rican
Investment Promotion Agency, emphasized the importance of Chinese
investment.
“Chinese companies can use Costa Rica as a trade platform and an
investment hub to the Western Hemisphere as Minister of Commerce Chen
Deming is encouraging more companies to invest abroad.
“Chinese companies can assemble goods in Costa Rica to increase their
value and export to other countries through Costa Rica’s FTA (free-trade
agreement) with Central America and other countries,” she said.
Costa Rica is the only Central American country to have an FTA with China.
Costa Rica’s eight FTAs regulate trade with 13 partners and cover 64.1
percent of the country’s exports and 64.1 percent of its total imports.
Statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China show that
trade volume between China and Costa Rica reached $3.8 billion in 2010, up
19.2 percent year-on-year. China’s exports to Costa Rica reached $690
million last year while imports totaled $3.11 billion.
The electronics industry has been the leading sector in Costa Rica in the
past decades and the country is a major supplier of electronics.
Since 2000, Costa Rican exports to China, which include computer
components and accessories, electrical plugs and agricultural products,
increased approximately 70 percent annually.
The FTA between Costa Rica and China came into effect on Aug 1. More than
90 percent of bilateral trade goods will eventually be tariff-free.
“China-Costa Rica trade is expected to increase more than 5 percent each
year despite a global reduction in trade, especially in the United States
and European Union. But in Asia, specifically China, trade is growing very
fast,” Ruiz said.
So far, Costa Rica has established FTAs with Singapore and China and is
evaluating the possibility of an FTA with South Korea.
Pilar said that the FTA with China “has built a highway through the ocean,
allowing Chinese companies, investors, tourists to go with confidence”.
However, challenges in areas including mutual understanding and
cooperation may effect China’s investment in Costa Rica.
“My suggestion for Chinese investors is that it is difficult to go abroad
alone. It is much better to find partners in Costa Rica because they
understand the language, customs and traditions. It’s the same for Costa
Rican companies investing in China,” Ruiz said.

Araceli Santos
STRATFOR
T: 512-996-9108
F: 512-744-4334
araceli.santos@stratfor.com
http://www.stratfor.com

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[OS] COSTA RICA/CHINA/TAIWAN – Costa Rica breaks relations with Taiwan

Released on 2013-02-13 00:00 GMT

Email-ID 337194
Date 2007-06-07 09:33:12
From os@stratfor.com
To analysts@stratfor.com

Eszter – they broke up after all. Arias announced, the Taiwanese FM
offered to resign.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – President Oscar Arias announced Wednesday that
Costa Rica has broken diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established
relations with China, delivering a blow to the Asian island’s fragile
international standing.

Arias said Costa Rica needed to strengthen ties with China to attract
foreign investment.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister James Huang quickly offered to resign to take
responsibility for Costa Rica’s switch, which left the Taiwan with
relations with just two dozen nations.

Since splitting amid civil war in 1949, Taiwan and China have fought to
win the diplomatic allegiance of countries around the world. China refuses
to have diplomatic ties with nations that recognize Taiwan, which Beijing
regards as a renegade province it plans to eventually unify with the
mainland.

Central America in particular has been a bulwark of support for Taiwan,
and Taiwan had expressed fears that if Costa Rica were to shift its
recognition to Beijing, other nations such as Nicaragua and Panama could
soon follow suit.

“We are looking to strengthen the commercial ties and attract investment,”
Arias said. “China is the most successful emerging economy in the world
and soon it will be the second strongest economy in the world after the
United States.”

Arias said China is the Central American nation’s No. 1 trading partner,
buying more than $1 billion worth of Costa Rican exports last year.

China spends heavily to induce nations to change diplomatic allegiances,
offering investment, loans and other incentives.

“Taiwan has been very generous and I thank it for the solidarity and
co-operation it has shown for nearly 60 years, but I have taken this
decision thinking of all the Costa Ricans,” Arias said.

The change is just one more strike against Taiwan in its campaign for
international legitimacy. During the late 1960s, it had full relations
with 67 countries, including the United States. But the U.S. pulled it
embassy out of the Taiwanese capital a decade later and today just 24
states recognize Taiwan.

The United States, Japan, Great Britain and dozens of others maintain
quasi-official ties * part of a diplomatic sleight of hand to honor
Beijing’s condition that full diplomatic recognition be accorded to only
one of the rivals.

However, Beijing resents even those connections. Its main concern is the
United States, which remains Taiwan’s most important foreign link,
providing it weapons for its defense against a possible Chinese attack.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has said that Taiwan could enjoy formal
independence in his lifetime. This angered China, which has threatened to
attack the island if it formalizes its de facto independence.

At a press briefing shortly after Costa Rica’s announcement, Huang,
Taiwan’s foreign minister, offered to resign.

“I went to President Chen (Shui-bian) … and asked to resign to take
political responsibility,” Huang told reporters. He did not say if his
offer was accepted.

Huang said that he believed Costa Rica was an isolated case. But he
acknowledged he had ordered Taiwanese embassies in Latin America to guard
against possible Chinese inroads.

“I’ve asked our embassies to take extreme precautions against any further
pressure by the Chinese communists,” he said.

Taiwan has been concerned about a deterioration of its relations with
Costa Rica since May 14, when the Latin American country voted at an
international health conference against holding a discussion on proposed
Taiwanese membership in the World Health Organization.

On May 25, Huang met with officials from Costa Rica and four other Latin
American countries in Belize City in an effort to shore up Taiwan’s
diplomatic standing in the region.

Arias declined to comment on whether his decision could encourage other
Central American nations to transfer their allegiance from Taipei to
Beijing.

Analyst Andrew Yang of the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy
Studies said the Costa Rican action would probably create a chain reaction
among at least a number of Taiwan’s remaining seven Latin American allies.

“This will have a significant impact on other countries, a kind of domino
effect” he said. “Probably Nicaragua and Panama are next and then maybe
Paraguay.”

Salvadoran President Tony Saca said Wednesday that his nation was
interested in establishing relations with China but did not want to sever
ties with Taiwan.

“Taiwan is an independent country that has won its space and we will going
maintaining relations with Taiwan. If China accepts this we will open
relations with pleasure,” Saca said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070607/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/costa_rica_taiwan_china

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Good piece: Costa Rica, Panama in the Crossfire

Released on 2013-02-13 00:00 GMT

Email-ID 2350182
Date 2009-10-08 20:51:00
From marko.papic@stratfor.com
To ct@stratfor.com, mexico@stratfor.com

Costa Rica, Panama in the Crossfire

Seized cocaine wrapped in small plastic bags

Evidence from high sea drug seizure.
(cc) Dulue Mbachu

As Mexicoa**s drug wars spread south beyond Guatemala and Honduras,
normally peaceful countries have fallen under the crossfire, Samuel Logan
and John P Sullivan write for ISN Security Watch.

By Samuel Logan and John P Sullivan for ISN Security Watch

———————————————————————-

Colombia and Costa Rica reaffirmed counternarcotics cooperation on 16
September, underscoring the reality of a new threat to security facing
Costa Rica, a country known as the Switzerland of Central America.

While most analysts consider Central Americaa**s northern triangle
countries – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – to be the most affected
by the regional drug trade, Costa Rica and Panama have in 2009 become de
facto passageways, warehouses and money laundering fronts for both Mexican
and Colombian organized crime.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that seizures
of cocaine have increased dramatically in Panama and Costa Rica over the
last few years.

In 2000, seizures of cocaine in Panama and Costa Rica amounted to 7,400
and 5,871 kilograms, respectively. By 2007, this quantity had risen to
60,000 and 32,435 kilos for both states, respectively.

This surge dramatically underscores the growing importance of these
nations in the cross-Hemisphere drug trade. They have been caught in the
crossfire of Mexicoa**s drug wars.

Panama a**reda**

Many analysts observe that Panama could be an emerging narco-battleground.
In addition to a suspected 2,000 coastal hideouts for maritime
traffickers, there is an emphasis on overland drug routes.

a**Around 65 percent of the drug smuggling traffic through Costa Rica and
Panama is maritime, and most of the rest is over land,a** Paul Knierim, an
Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with experience in
Central America and currently working as the staff coordinator in
congressional and public affairs, told ISN Security Watch.

Extreme violence is also on the upswing. In April, alleged members of
Mexicoa**s Sinaloa Cartel abducted two suspected Envigado Cartel members
outside Panama Citya**s Metro Plaza mall, just one sign of the countrya**s
burgeoning drug trade. It is fueling a new generation of gangs (108 gangs
at current count), paid a**in-kinda** with drugs by the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other traffickers.

Costa Rica: Encroaching on paradise

On 30 September, it was announced that Costa Rica would receive an
additional $1 million in Merida funds to combat drug trafficking (this is
on top of an initial $4.3 million allocated earlier this year). The funds
are targeted to bolster the police and enhance efforts to counter money
laundering.

a**Contrary to the Mexico portion of the Merida Initiative, the Central
American portion [also] includes a significant amount of funds for
violence prevention. We were pleased to see that almost a third of the
funding for the first year was earmarked for prevention and community
policing efforts,a** Adriana Beltran, senior associate for citizen
security for the Washington Office on Latin America, told ISN Security
Watch.

But Bruce Bagley, chair of the Department of International Studies with
the University of Miami, remains cautious. a**Costa Rica is a target of
opportunity and must be aware of and alert to its institutional
vulnerability,a** he told ISN Security Watch.

Costa Rican police assigned to counterdrug duties had amounted to 183
officials assigned to the Policia de Control de Drogas (PCD). These
officers are charged with combating a half-billion dollar drug trade that
moves at least 1,000 tons of cocaine annually.

Since the second year of President Oscar Ariasa** administration, when law
enforcement registered a 400 percent increase in the amount of larger
shipments – 500 to 1,000 kilos – moving through Costa Rica, the country
has begun to organize a cohesive strategy to fight back, but observers are
still concerned about whata**s on the horizon.

Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua are not only shifting from transit to
processing territories, they are becoming drug-consuming nations as well.
The increased presence of drugs and drug gangs is stimulating a rise in
crime and violence. Central Americaa**s most peaceful countries may find a
serious security challenge ahead.

“We haven’t yet seen an escalation of violence, but there is concern, so
we’re focused on preventative maintenance and going after the kingpins,”
Knierim said.

Earlier this year, in March, gunmen stole some 320 kilos of confiscated
cocaine from a guarded storage unit in Golfito, a commercial center near
the border with Panama. Security measures failed again, in May, when a
helicopter carrying an estimated 347 kilograms of cocaine crashed on Costa
Ricaa**s notorious Cerro de la Muerte, allegedly en route to a warehouse
located near Turrialba, a small town just east of the capital, San Jose.

At the time, Public Security Minister Janina del Vecchio stated that
a**the presence of Mexican cartels in Costa Rica is worrisome,a** adding
that the helicopter crash supported her analysis that Costa Rica is used
for cocaine warehousing as much as it has been used for transshipment.
Del Vecchio also recently told the Tico Times, that a**[preventing drug
trafficking] isna**t just a fight on the seas, ita**s also a fight in the
streets [a*|].a**

Despite concerns of corruption, Knierim remains very supportive of Costa
Ricaa**s security forces. “In my time in Costa Rica, I’ve had the pleasure
of working very closely with their drug police and judicial police, and
they are some of the most professional, hard working cops in Central
America,” he said.

By land or sea

Drug traffickers have begun to use littoral routes on the Pacific side, as
close as five to 10 miles off shore. At any sign of trouble, a number of
estuaries and rivers provide cover. Some dona**t manage to hide.

On 7 September, officers with Costa Ricaa**s Drug Control Police (PCD)
stopped two fishermen steaming north about seven miles off shore and
interdicted 1,095 kilos of cocaine. Just two weeks prior, officers seized
382 kilos of cocaine out of a boat parked on Garabito beach, near Jaco, a
world renowned surf destination.

On land, the best route north into Nicaragua and beyond is through PeA+-as
Blancas, the border crossing in Costa Ricaa**s northwestern corner. Both
countries have placed a high priority on guarding this passage as it is
considered a bottleneck for illicit shipments moving north over land.

One unintended consequence, however, is that more weight will pass through
Costa Ricaa**s disreputable Limon port on the Caribbean coast, where
officers seized 110 kilos of cocaine from four dock workers who were
offloading a container that had arrived from the Colombian port town of
Turbo, on the Uraba Bay, a long known drugs export zone.

Drug trafficking and the endemic criminal violence it breeds are a threat
to the entire Western Hemisphere. The southern states of Central America
are just encountering the risk involved.

At least two Mexican cartels, the rival Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels are
active throughout Central America. It is near certain that the Zetas and
others are active as well. Add to this the traditional Colombian cartels
and transnational, third-generation gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha,
and the potential for cross-border drug wars and criminal insurgencies
rises.

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