Costa Rica has Seized 19 Tons of Illegal Drugs This Year…..Where are the Drugs?

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In the first three months of 2021, Costa Rican authorities have seized 19 tons of illegal drugs which is excellent, but what happens to those drugs? The Minister of Security Michael Soto and individuals involved in drug trafficking seem to disagree on the fate of confiscated drugs in Costa Rica.

Soto claims that under Costa Rican law, the storage and destruction of all seized drugs – regardless of the drug enforcement agency involved – falls to the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ). Says Soto, “OIJ has adequate installations with security to safely store the drugs while they await their formal destruction.” Before they are destroyed, the drugs are sorted, counted, weighed, evaluated, and formal plans are made for their destruction.

Sources involved in the illegal drug trade, however, say this description of disposing of illicit drugs is pure fantasy. Explained one former drug trafficker, “The reality is that the seized drugs will end up in one of four places: Into the storage of the OIJ for personal use or barter; into Fuerza Publica hands to be mixed with other substances to generate more quantity; into the pockets of OIJ officials escorting the drugs to storage; or some, will in fact be destroyed according to the judge’s order.”
Soto explains the details of drug destruction, “The destruction must be made in a special location, because the drugs are burned and emit fumes. A judge must be present, members of the OIJ, chemical experts, and a high level of security must be maintained.” Authorities have been using a cement plant for drug destruction.

Costa Rica is working on a newer method of drug disposal called plasma gasification. In 2020, Costa Rica sent 71,709,885 kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, ketamine, ecstasy, crack, and other drugs to Miami to be destroyed by that method. Plans are currently in the works to use plasma gasification in Costa Rica, which will save money and cut down on theft. Plasma gasification does not pollute, another positive reason to use this process.

As always, the system of drug interdiction in Costa Rica seems to sometimes break down due to police corruption – especially during the current economic crisis. The drug trafficker who commented for this story described the journey of drugs off the street and into the cement oven calling the process “a sieve”, with leaks every time the drugs change hands.
Costa Rica had a record number of drug seizures last year. Michael Soto attributes the increased number of drug confiscations to the efforts of the various Costa Rican police departments, as well as the cooperation and support of other countries, such as Colombia, USA, Panama and Ecuador

About the Author :

Carol Blair Vaughn has written for Inside Costa Rica and The Costa Rica Star, as well as El
Residente magazine. She grew up in Latin America, traveling with her father Jack Vaughn,
former Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, and US Ambassador to Panama
and Colombia. The Star published her book Crazy Jungle Love: Murder, Madness, Money & Monkeys
in 2017, and it is now available for purchase on Amazon as both a paperback and an


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