As tons of cocaine pass through Costa Rica’s Caribbean ports undetected, the government is left paying the maintenance bills on X-ray scanners that sit collecting dust, unused, reported the daily La Nación Monday.
Soon after the administration of President Oscar Arias (2006-2010) recognized the People’s Republic of China, ending Costa Rica’s longstanding diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the Chinese government donated two X-ray scanners, valued at $6 million each, to Costa Rica to detect drugs hidden in shipping containers leaving the Limón port. La Nación reported that the two truck-mounted scanners require a level concrete surface, Internet, and a three-phase electrical connection to operate, but the devices have sat unused for six years.
Meanwhile, literally tons of cocaine have made their way past authorities. More than 80 percent of Costa Rica’s exports pass through the Caribbean ports, and everything from flowers to pineapples have been used to hide significant quantities of cocaine, mostly destined for Europe.
On Dec. 1, Dutch authorities in Rotterdam uncovered 3.5 metric tons of cocaine hidden in a shipment of cassava roots that originated in Costa Rica. In May, Spanish authorities found 2.5 metric tons of the narcotic hidden in a shipment of pineapples.
Speaking about the Rotterdam seizure, Foreign Trade Minister Alexander Mora said in a statement that same day that the seizure was an isolated incident but that “it has the potential to harm the image of our country as a safe place and compromise the image of our exporters.”
Vice Minister of Revenue Fernando Rodríguez acknowledged that the wait to use the scanners was “absurd” in an interview with La Nación, adding that there are ongoing discussions with the Atlantic Port Authority and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute to implement the equipment. Meanwhile, as the government continues to discuss how to plug in the scanners, the Customs Administration has been paying $400,000 every year to maintain the machines in the event that they are ever put to use.