At the end of May, Ricardo Herrera received a note informing him that he no longer had a job.
The 55-year-old had worked for more than six years as a security guard with a San José-based firm. But, in recent months it had become harder for him and his colleagues to make ends meet.
Living expenses were on the rise, he said, and the company Consorcio de Información y Seguridad S.A. wasn t paying its employees at the nightly rate, it wasn t picking up the tab for company travel and salaries weren t keeping pace with the cost of living.
So, together with a handful of other employees, he stitched together the groundwork for a union. Twelve days after they filed paperwork with the Legislative Assembly, Herrera and nine other employees were fired.
We wanted to form a union to improve the economic conditions of our colleagues, Herrera said. We filed the paperwork and notified the company under law. For curious reasons, the entire executive board was fired after the company received notification.
He paused, as if still in disbelief and added, Can you imagine that?
Boraschi said the agreement was a positive step for Central America, but much remains to be done in order to combat the drug trade.
We need to strengthen these plans, he said. Countries need to communicate, but they aren t. We need intense work between all the countries in Central America.
Boraschi noted that much of the communication equipment is outdated and many of the radios and telephones often don t function.
The ICD is working with the Judicial Branch and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) to improve the plans. Since 2008, the groups have been assembling the National Communication Intervention System, which would upgrade computer and telephone systems used by law enforcement agencies.
As part of the plan, the groups are lobbying for a law against organized crime, which will be up for debate in the Legislative Assembly next week, June 29. The law, as it stands now, would release financial resources for local law enforcement agencies to combat organized crime, such as drug trafficking.
Among the law s objectives are establishment of procedures for placing wiretaps on phones under certain circumstances and creating a communication control center in Costa Rica for coordination among the police agencies of the Central American countries.
Resources and Financing
The lack of integrated communications among Central American drug enforcement agencies has spilled over into the region s ability to receive foreign aid.
Costa Rica has received a total of $51 million in aid from the U.S. during the past 10 years, while Mexico will receive a cumulative $400 million in assistance to fight drug trafficking under a three year plan which was signed in June 2008 (TT April 17, 2009).
Bruce Bagley, chair of the international studies department at the University of Miami, said part of the reason that Central America didn t receive more money was because the countries didn t talk to each other when the offer was on the table.
The U.S. offered $1.4 million dollars to Central America as a region, and each of the seven countries in the region responded with their own individual requests of approximtely $100 million dollars.
The U.S. said Give us a break, Bagley said. There is no coherent regional plan.
Given the linkages between (the countries), Central America needs to think in regional terms and they have not been good at that.
Ricardo González, press official of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), agreed, saying, Look, we need to start talking to each other and we need better ways of doing it, he said.
González said that the National Coast Guard, one of Costa Rica s most valuable tools in combating illegal drug shipments, has 15 ships and 500 officials working both coasts of Costa Rica. The drug control police contributes 250 officials who also patrol the coasts, but Gonzalez said all of the resources aren t enough to cover an area 10 times the size of our national territory.
Bagely noted that if Costa Rica wants to see more money to aid in its fight against drug trafficking, it must be Central America s guide through the region s dark communications tunnels, something the nation has the opportunity to do as it is set to become the new leader of SICA this month.
Costa Rica has a tremendous economic and political advantage over the other countries in Central America and I think it ought to take the lead with information sharing and joint police force training, he said. But until they do, they had better brace themselves.