C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000890
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2019
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: VISIT OF SOUTHCOM AMB. TRIVELLI
Classified By: CDA Peter M. Brennan for reason 1.4 (d).
1. (C) SUMMARY. On October 6-7, SOUTHCOM Civilian Deputy
Commander Ambassador Paul Trivelli visited Costa Rica and met
with senior GOCR officials, including President Arias. The
consistent theme throughout Amb. Trivelli’s visit was GOCR
requests for further security-related assistance via the
Merida Initiative, SOUTHCOM, or other funding sources. On
Honduras, President Arias told Amb. Trivelli he believed the
visa revocations for top de facto government leaders were
having an effect and added that even more visa sanctions
might pressure the de factos to sign the San Jose Accord.
MEETING WITH PRESIDENT ARIAS
2. (C) In his meeting with President Arias and Minister of
Public Security Janina Del Vecchio, Amb. Trivelli described
how US SOUTHCOM had transformed over the past two years and
that its relationship with Costa Rica had grown, especially
in humanitarian assistance. President Arias seemed satisfied
with the increased cooperation and appreciated Amb.
Trivelli’s briefing on how SOUTHCOM was engaging with Latin
3. (C) Turning to Honduras, President Arias believed that
U.S. visa revocations of senior de facto government officials
was having an affect. He encouraged the USG to further its
visa sanctions against some former Honduran presidents who
were “siding” with Micheletti and four “well-known”
businessmen involved with the June 28 removal of Zelaya from
power. Arias believed that further pressure on the de facto
Honduran government might push them towards signing the San
“WE NEED MORE DIRECT ASSISTANCE”
4. (C) Amb. Trivelli also met separately with Minister Del
Vecchio and other senior officials from Costa Rica’s Ministry
of Public Security (MPS) to discuss strategic and
counter-narcotics cooperation. (MPS is charged with both
domestic and national security as Costa Rica has no
military.) Del Vecchio highlighted the success of the
USG-GOCR bilateral maritime agreement that has been largely
responsible for successful narcotics interdiction efforts in
Costa Rican waters. She appreciated the role of the U.S. as
a real partner in counternarcotics cooperation.
5. (C) Del Vecchio requested additional USG security
assistance in many areas including community policing,
however, she specifically was seeking assistance in the
— To participate in SOUTHCOM’s possible Regional Aircraft
Modernization Plan (RAMP) to modernize and perhaps obtain new
aircraft for Costa Rica’s Air Wing that is mostly focused on
counter-drug, search and rescue, and air ambulance operations;
— Receiving, via donation, older U.S. Coast Guard 110-foot
patrol boats to eventually replace Costa Rica’s aging three
82-foot patrol boats (NOTE: via Merida FMF funding those
82-foot patrol boats will be renovated/modernized. END
— Creation of a police intelligence platform in terms of
both infrastructure and technology.
6. (C) One of Del Vecchio’s operational commanders, Allan
Solano of the Drug Control Police (PCD, a rough equivalent to
the DEA), briefed Amb. Trivelli on increased drug-trafficking
violence taking place in Costa Rica. He said there was firm
evidence that the Sinoloa Cartel was operating in Costa Rica
and that most of the violence was between competing drug
trafficking organizations (DTOs). He also said that internal
drug consumption amongst Costa Ricans was increasing and that
Costa Rica no longer was just a “drug transit” country.
NATIONAL LEGISLATORS: MORE ASSISTANCE PLEASE
7. (SBU) During a meeting with Costa Rican national
legislators from their counter-narcotics and public security
committees, lawmakers echoed what Amb. Trivelli heard from
MPS regarding the need for further security assistance.
Evita Arguedas, an independent, told us that Costa Rica
needed increased Merida Initiative assistance to roll back
the tide of crime. She also highlighted that cooperation
between Costa Rica’s various police forces (over 10 in total,
depending on jurisdiction/mission) needed to cooperate more
smoothly and be less “stove-piped.” Luis Barrantes, from
Libertarian Movement (ML), said that after neglecting
security issues for nearly 30 years, Costa Rica was far
behind but that the solution to the problem must be a “whole”
approach and not in any one area alone.
8. (C) When Amb. Trivelli asked if there was a clear
“national security plan” in Costa Rica, legislators clearly
agreed that development of one would better focus their
efforts and provide overall “vision” to the country. The
Ambassador linked successful development and investment in
the country with firm commitments to security by the GOCR.
9. (SBU) We asked legislators if they would consider
extending USN/USCG ship visit permissions from six months to
one year. They said it would probably be better and
positively received by most legislators but asked that the
USG provide them a briefing on the effectiveness vis-a-vis
narcotics/law enforcement cooperation of the ship visits.
10. (SBU) Legislators expressed concern about the recent
opening here, by the Venezuelan Embassy, of so-called “bases
of peace.” Seen by most in the media as an effort to counter
the “spread” of “U.S.” bases in Colombia, most called the
action a provocation and would be asking the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs to find out more information. (NOTE: Amb.
Trivelli also raised this issue with President Arias, who
expressed his concern over the “bases de paz” and
subsequently made public statements instructing the foreign
ministry to investigate thoroughly whether these were in
compliance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Missions.
CID-GALLUP: ONE IN FOUR PER HOUSEHOLD VICTIMS OF CRIME
11. (SBU) In a meeting with Carlos Denton of CID-Gallup and
some members of the security committee of the local Amcham,
briefers detailed the public’s prevailing sense of domestic
insecurity in Costa Rica. According to polling done by
CID-Gallup over the past four months, one in four persons in
each household in Costa Rica has been a crime victim,
typically from assault or robbery. Figures similar to these
are reflected throughout Central America per the polling.
This clearly demonstrates, said Denton, that “crime in
Central America is a real problem, it is not perception.”
12. (SBU) On drug consumption, Denton told us that getting
accurate data from respondents was difficult since few people
would admit to drug use openly. For example, he said that
when the question is asked directly, only about 3 percent of
people would admit to using drugs; however, when asked “do
you know someone who uses drugs?” the response was higher at
around 14 percent.
13. (SBU) On possible ways Amcham/CID-Gallup could help the
GOCR in its security efforts, Amb. Trivelli suggested that:
— When large U.S. companies visit Costa Rica, they should
emphasize how important security is to economic prosperity
and try to seek appointments with senior members of the GOCR,
including President Arias;
— Amcham might be able to assist the Ministry of Public
Security with their community policing program;
— Support drug/substance abuse education efforts; and
— Do a new drug abuse survey to roughly determine number of
drug users/abusers in Costa Rica to better define the problem.
14. (U) During his visit to Costa Rica, Amb. Trivelli had a
successful round of media interviews including exclusives
with La Nacion (most respected Costa Rican daily), Radio
Colombia (center-right station), and Channel 11, one of the
major national television networks. Following his meeting
with President Arias, Amb. Trivelli was interviewed by
Channel 7. He also received additional media coverage by the
Tico Times, a weekly English language newspaper and with A.M.
Costa Rica, an online English language paper.
15. (U) During his interviews, Amb. Trivelli highlighted
bilateral initiatives over the past year, including: MEDRETEs
and other humanitarian projects, plans to build a new Costa
Rican Coast Guard Academy, and projects aimed to combat drug
trafficking such as the installation of a communications
platform in Cerro Azul, Costa Rica.
16. (C) The clear message received by Amb. Trivelli’s visit
to Costa Rica was GOCR requests for further security
cooperation and assistance. Though refraining from being
critical on the relatively small amount of assistance that
Costa Rica is receiving in comparison to Mexico or the war in
Iraq as he has been in the past, President Arias asked for
further assistance and seemed truly grateful for USG security
cooperation. Post believes that targeted assistance in
police professionalization, including community policing, and
further maritime assistance would benefit both Costa Rica and
the U.S. in addressing domestic insecurity issues and
interdicting drug trafficking.