As the latest seizure of cocaine at the Peñas Blancas border crossing was tallied Tuesday morning, Public Security Minister Celso Gamboa announced that Costa Rica’s annual haul of the illicit drug is set to exceed 26 metric tons this year, breaking 2013’s record of 21.8 metric tons.
Gamboa also said that 2014 has been an “extremely positive” year for Costa Rican law enforcement, which has seized $13 million from drug traffickers and dismantled 124 national and international criminal organizations. But those operations were not without a human cost.
“This quantity of drugs did not come without blood being shed,” the minister added during a press conference at Casa Presidencial on Tuesday.
Gamboa said there was an important increase in the number of Costa Ricans involved in drug trafficking during 2014 even as non-drug related violence was down so far this year. The minister said that the overall number of homicides is lower than in 2013, although year-end numbers are still being tallied.
As the minister trumpeted the year’s blows against organized crime, he mused about the need to re-examine how Costa Rica approaches small-time crime.
“In Costa Rica someone could go to jail for stealing a bunch of bananas or a can of tuna, so it’s necessary to realize that there’s a distortion between the number of thefts compared to other Latin American countries that have less severe criminal sentencing,” Gamboa said.
The minister reflected that he would like to see a debate on reforming sentencing rules so that punishments better suit crimes.
Gamboa also stressed the need for the Legislative Assembly to approve the latest request for U.S. Coast Guard ships to participate in joint patrols with Costa Rica law enforcement. The current six-month approval expires Dec. 31, and lawmakers must take action before their last session before the Christmas break on Thursday, Dec. 18.