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Security operation for Obama visit ‘biggest in Costa Rica’s history’

May 1, 2013

Costa Rica will experience 22 unusual hours starting at midday on Friday, with massive security deployments throughout the country’s capital, and the closures of streets, neighborhoods, commercial buildings and public services during the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, who will meet with his Central American colleagues.

Almost 1,000 police officers, 180 intelligence agents and 150 Traffic Police officers, plus an unreported number of U.S. Secret Service agents, will be charged with carrying out the vast security operation that will protect Obama and the Central American presidents until noon on Saturday.

“This is one of the biggest security operations in the history of Costa Rica,” as the recent attacks in the United States have put us on high alert,” Presidency Vice Minister Mario Boraschi, who coordinates the Costa Rican government’s anti-drug trafficking security policy, said.

Air Force One, which will transport Obama to the country, will land in a special section of Juan Santamaría International Airport, 17 kilometers north of San José. From there, the president will travel to the Casa Amarilla, as the historic Foreign Ministry building is known, in an historic neighborhood of central San José.

To facilitate the operation, the Costa Rican government declared a work holiday in all public offices in seven cantons in the provinces of San José and Alajuela. The government also issued a strong “recommendation” to private businesses located in the areas where Obama will travel or stay to close on Friday and Saturday.

The country’s top security officials, including Public Security Minster Mario Zamora, on Tuesday held a press conference to announce the security details and to inform residents who will most likely be affected by the 22-hour diplomatic event.

The routes that Obama and presidents from Central America and the Dominican Republic will travel will be closed – along with two parallel lanes – for periods of up to 30 minutes at a time, said Huanelge Gutiérrez, assistant director of the Traffic Police.

Areas around the meeting sites also will be partially closed and strictly monitored, including the Casa Amarilla, the National Cultural Center, the National Theater, the center of the city and hotels where delegates will stay, in the western sector of the city.

Routes that will be closed include the General Cañas Highway, Paseo Colón, Avenida Segunda and Route 27. Areas of La California and Barrio Amón also will be closed.

Officials asked the dozens of reporters expected to descend on the events to report up to three hours early for security checks.

Secret Service agents and Costa Rican police officers have swept downtown neighborhoods in recent days, interviewing home and building owners and asking them for the personal details of residents. Workers removed trees around the perimeter of the Casa Amarilla, and new surveillance cameras with satellite transmission technology are being installed along transit routes.

Obama will meet with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to discuss trade, security, immigration and energy, officials said. 

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