First Wikileaks discloses concern over Ecuador visa rules

Ecuador was jeopardizing Latin American security with lax immigration requirements, according to the then-director of Costa Rica’s agency.

That was the gist of the first U.S. diplomatic cable from San José released by Wikileaks.

The Nov. 12, 2008, cable came from then-U.S. ambassador Peter E. Cianchette. He was reporting on a conversation he had with Mario Zamora, who was head of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería at the time. He now is a vice minister supervising that agency. The cable to Washington and other Latin embassies was labeled confidential.

The cable said that Zamora sent two immigration officials to Quito to reinforce training for Costa Rican consular workers there because Ecuador had lifted its visa requirements. Zamora was reported to be concerned that Ecuador was being used as a base for human traffickers who were getting false papers and visas for young Chinese men.

Zamora was said to be concerned because applications for Costa Rican visas had been submitted from China but the notifications were supposed to be sent to Ecuador.

Subsequently there have been disputes over visas to Chinese, including permission for Chinese workers who have been involved with the stadium the country
constructed in Costa Rica as a gift. China is on the
restricted list for visas, and issuing a visa requires approval of a committee at the immigration department.

But according to the former ambassador, Zamora was not just worried about Chinese. Zamora was quoted as being concerned about the high number of foreigners from elsewhere that were arriving daily on air flights from Ecuador.

Zamora noted that daily flights arriving to San Jose from Ecuador had recently become “very cosmopolitan” and were receiving more scrutiny, the former ambassador said. Before, these flights carried more “local” clientele but now included many South Americans and Eastern Europeans, among others, he added, quoting Zamora.

“Though Zamora told us that there had thus far been no indication that the emerging immigration patterns included
terrorist activity, he remains attentive to U.S. concerns, and he continues to work closely with us on these issues,” said Cianchette.

Costa Rica also has seen several cases where groups of Africans entered the country illegally after being abandoned by traffickers. Most had intentions of heading to the United States.

Wikileaks still has more than 760 diplomatic cables from San José that have not been released. Only a few are secret.

The most sensitive probably will be the assessments of U.S. diplomats of progress getting the Central American free trade treaty approved here and the activities of opponents.

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