Open borders give smugglers plenty of opportunities

Costa Rica’s porous borders for both the north and south are open invitations to smugglers.

The drug trade is a class apart with sophisticated hidden compartments on trucks and even submarines in the sea.

Medicines, cigarettes, alcohol and now even wood are easily transported into the country if shipments that become confiscated are any guide.

Costa Ricans are very conscious of environmental problems, which is why a 1997 decree made commerce in some woods illegal. One of these was cola de pavo, the local name for Hymenolobium mesoamericanum, which is a sturdy wood good for construction.  It also is a threatened species.

The tree grows in the central mountains and also in Nicaragua, which is where a load that was confiscated last week originated.

Officers of the Policía de Fronteras  encountered the truckload of wood in Los Chiles. That is not unusual, according to police. Some 70 percent of smuggled wood has been confiscated in the northern area near Nicaragua. From January to July, police grabbed 737 planks of wood, they reported wood092115Medicines are another heavily smuggled product. Some believe that many Nicaraguans obtain medicines that they have no plans to use from that nation’s medical system. The medicines, including antibiotics, find their way into Costa Rica and into the medication supply chain.

The Fuerza Pública said they grabbed a Nicaraguan woman last week and said she was carrying medicines and cigarettes on foot from the border.

There were 1,709 individual units of medicine and 5,600 cigarettes. Tobacco is a hot item for smuggling because Costa Rica is trying to reduce smoking with heavy taxes.

The seizure took place in La Cruz, Guanacaste, which also is adjacent to the border.

A similar flow of smuggled goods comes from the south, although the variety is different. Panamá is a place to buy clothing and also alcohol. Sometimes there also is a smuggled load of gasoline.

The border is open, and, just as in the north, smugglers can easily walk across the line.

Investigators recently detained a customs official who was accused of facilitating the entry of a container of untaxed cigarettes from Panamá.

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