Anti-drug agency to campaign against young drinkers

The nation’s anti-drug institute plans to confront drinking and drug use among minors, especially those who use buses to go to what officials call barres libres, which translates to “open bars.”

Young people are the main customers of these weekend excursions where drinkers go by bus to various locations.

While the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas listed numerous commercial centers and specific bars that these buses go to, a Power Point display with photographs demonstrated that parties often are on private property and that the bus itself is usually the primary venue for substance abuse.

In its latest awareness campaign, the institute is targeting students at private high schools, who come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and are more likely to have the money to arrange for these buses and parties. These students are also more attractive to drug dealers.

“Our concern about private centers of education is that young people at these schools have high levels of economic capacity, and drug dealers want the best deal,” said Carlos Alvarado, director of the institute.

Alvarado said that instead of trying to get students to not consume drugs, the objective of this campaign is to keep students from getting involved in dealing and transporting drugs.

At the conference, the institute showed a film it had developed to show in schools showing the consequences of becoming involved in drug trafficking in a high school setting.

Slightly grittier than such films shown in schools in the United States, the film followed drugs from an outside dealer through three students passing the drugs along. One student ends up being kidnapped at gunpoint and never heard from again, the second one goes to prison, and the last student at the end of the chain flushes the drugs down a toilet and succeeds in school.

After the presentation and a short discussion on the film with the audience Tuesday afternoon, Alvarado gave a presentation documenting what the institute has learned in its undercover investigation, which began last year.

In the presentation, Alvarado outlined where the details of these buses, parties and open bars, and showed dozens of photographs of minors and abusing substances and engaging in lascivious activities. Some pictures showed teens drinking liquor from the bottle, a couple dancing while the young woman placed her partner’s hand under her skirt, and showing women dancing only in undergarments, implying that there may be underage prostitution at these parties.

The Alvarado said that the institute has been cooperating and that the mission of the organization is to cooperate with other governmental groups compile the information of all of these groups into usable data.

“Our role in Costa Rica is to coordinate all people and institutions that have different competencies about drugs,” said Alvarado.

In the spirit of cooperation, members of several other governmental organizations came to give presentations, including Pablo Bertozzi, subdirector of the Fuerza Publica, and Minor Villalobos, director of the department of private centers in the Ministerio de Educación Pública.

This was the first such presentation in a month-long series, and the same presentation will be given at private school’s in Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago.

Last October a massive display of police and representatives from other agencies ended a bar tour in which participants filled three buses for trips to four drinking spots. Police ended the excursion at a Pavas bar where they made three arrests. They also found underage women who had entered the bar with someone else’s identification cards.

The event, called Mica Tours, consisted mostly of university students who paid 6,000 colons or about $12 to drink as much as they wanted

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