President Laura Chinchilla received key support Monday for her plan for new taxes from Álvaro Uribe, the former president of Colombia. He was here to participate in a forum run by a private firm and then visited Costa Rica’s president. Uribe is credited with greatly weakening the leftist guerrillas in his country and freeing much of the country from their grip.
In a release, Uribe was quoted as saying that his government needed to give the police forces more resources to wage an effective fight against narcotrafficking and organized crime. He said his government was obligated to establish a one-time tax on high earners and doubled the size of the police force to 140,000.
There was no mention of the fact that Uribe also had the Colombian army in the field fighting the rebels and billions in financial aid from the United States. He served for two terms from 2002 to 2010. He also has personal experience with rebels. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia killed his father in a failed 1983 kidnapping attempt.
“Narcotrafficking has to be defeated, otherwise it penetrates the whole social fabric, penetrates justice, journalism, politics.” Uribe was quoted as saying. “It is an invasive social phenomenon that damages and causes a metastasis of destruction of family values, democratic values and is immensely dangerous for society and for democratic institutions.
Casa Presidencial said that Uribe shared strategies and plans with Ms. Chinchilla. Uribe was a proponent of strong force against leftist guerrillas and paramilitaries at the expense of social programs. Ms. Chinchilla, on the other hand, seems to favor a more integrated approach and plans to spend significant sums on reintegrating criminals into society.
Most of the drugs that flow through Costa Rica come from Uribe’s Colombia and adjacent countries. The bulk is cocaine with some heroin. Law enforcement officials have acknowledged that the Pacific fishing fleet has been infiltrated and that much of the drugs are carried overland hidden in truck bodies and trailers. Some 402 kilos were found in the deck of a flatbed trailer late last week.
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard and to some extent the Costa Rican Guardacostas have tightened their grip on the sea routes. Typically drug boats unload on both coasts of southern Costa Rica, and the drugs move from there to collection points in the Central Valley and then by truck to the north.
The primary crossing point is Peñas Blancas on the Nicaraguan border.
Although Costa Rican anti-drug police have made some major confiscations, there is still no estimate on what percentage of drugs gets through. By the time drugs reach Costa Rica the packages are the property of Mexican cartels who face the job of carrying the drugs across the U.S. border. The amount of drugs headed to Europe has increased dramatically in recent years.
Costa Rica suffers as a byproduct of the drug trade. Smugglers usually pay their bills in cocaine which then enters the national market, frequently as crack cocaine. Much of the street robberies and burglaries are the work of crack addicts, and many of the murders come from battles between drug gangs.
Ms. Chinchilla has proposed a stopgap $316 tax on corporations. But that measure has been sent back to committee in the legislature to await a Sala IV constitutional court opinion. The major proposal is a value-added tax of 14 percent that would raise extra millions for the government. But most observers believe that this would not be enough to eliminate the annual central government budget deficit.
Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil is in town today and will be the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Ms. Chinchilla after a brief meeting.