Costa Rican officials expect a flood of Colombian ex-guerrillas and narcos once peace is reached in that country.
Ana Elena Chacón, second vice president of Costa Rica, said Monday that the amount of Colombian immigrants could increase due to a high number who know no other life but to grow and live off the drug business.
“These are people that need to be reinserted in the society under new behavior criteria, and that has a lot to do with the Colombian government’s job.” she said.
Peace talks in Colombia have been going on for more than three years now in Cuba promoted by the Manuel Santos presidency. Both the Fuerza Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and the government still have differences on how to deal with the weapons of the insurgent groups and the possibility for members of both sides to be granted amnesty.
“When the amnesty is signed and people are able to go back to society, we know that there will be an immigrant population willing to come to the country. Let’s not forget that we have a maritime common border with Colombia on the Limón side.” Vice President Chacón said in an interview.
The vice president emphasized that the refugee status will only be granted to those whose lives are in danger and who commit to abide by the law.
“Any migrant population must arrive under the proper legal terms, and if they don´t agree, we will invite them to leave,” she said.
“However, we can’t forget that the second immigrant group we have is the Colombian one.” Vice President Chacón said.
Costa Rica with an estimated 25,000 Colombian refugees has received more
individuals from that country except for the
United States. Colombians in Costa Rica make up the second largest population of foreigners after Nicaraguans.
The arrivals have been continuing for at least 20 years as those displaced by fighting or threats leave their homeland.
But there have been problems. Among the refugees were members of the major rebel groups in Colombia who were setting up transportation shipments for drugs and weapons.
In 2006 investigators found a top rebel leader, Héctor Orlando Martínez Quinto, living the life of a simple fisherman in Puntarenas. Investigators have since attributed to him the organizing of the Costa Rican fishing fleet as an arm of rebel drug smugglers.
After his extradition, Martínez got 36 years and six months in prison for his leadership that resulted in what is called the massacre de Bojayá in 2002 when rebels brought mortar fire on a church where townspeople had gathered in the Choco province community in Colombia.
He presumably would be among those getting amnesty.
The Colombian connection was revealed further when $480,000 in aging dollar bills turned up in a professor’s safe in Santa Bárbara de Heredia in 2008. Investigators here were following up on revelations from three computers taken from a top Colombian rebel commander killed during a raid in Ecuador.
Periodically there have been shootouts, sometimes between Colombian and Jamaican drug gangs. Colombians frequently are the intellectual authors of various drug gang operations.
Costa Rica and its Pacific Ocean are major illicit routes for Colombian drugs.
The United Nations estimates that there are a half million Colombians living as refugees in foreign countries after having been displaced by the war.