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Is Costa Rica becoming a new major theater for drug traffickers?

April 21, 2009 | 10:47 am

Costa Rica's Arenal volcano, situated along Lake Arenal, flares up in this 1992 handout file photo.

Costa Rica, one of the world's most beautiful countries and a paradise for all manner of outdoors enthusiasts, is concerned about increased drug trafficking and its ability to effectively deal with the issue.

A story in this week's English-language Tico Times cites a series of recent incidents and arrests and suggests that drug cartels, which may be finding it more difficult to move product into the U.S. via Mexico, are seeking new arenas in which to operate.

Could it be that Mexico's war on drug trafficking is having this unfortunate side effect? Perhaps. Cocaine seizures in Costa Rica, for example, increased from 2,955 kilos in 2002 to more than 32,000 kilos in 2007.

Bruce Bagley, editor of the book "Drug Trafficking in America," and the department chair of International Studies at the University of Miami, told the Tico Times: "Drug traffickers are finding Mexico to be too dangerous, violent and risky, which has caused them to look for other routes through Central America and the Caribbean."

What will this mean for tourism in a land renowned for surfing, fishing, bird-watching and whitewater rafting? It should not be a major issue, but consider what's happened in Mexico. Many have stopped visiting that country because of a perceived danger to tourists.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Costa Rica's Arenal volcano, situated along Lake Arenal, flares up in this 1992 handout file photo.


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