The public perception is that drug dealers have plenty of money. And some do.
When investigators raided the Mexican home of Joaquín Guzmán, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, they found more than $200 million in cash.
That reality for those in the neighborhood drug business in Costa Rica is that the job is a challenge. In addition to raids by the police, these small-time drug dealers run the risk of being gunned down in the street over territorial disputes or for debts.
The Policía de Control de Drogas of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública frequently raid the homes of neighborhood drug dealers. Everyone knows who they are. They find hundreds or perhaps thousands of crack rocks attesting to the local demand for drugs.
And they find cash, including stacks of coins that crack users pay for their rocks. The going rate is between 500 and 1,000 colons, about one or two U.S. dollars.
Anti-drug police raided a location Tuesday in Goicoechea where they said they found 1.8 million colons in cash. That’s a bit less than $3,400 and a bit more than the amount usually found on these raids.
Some of the money was in coins.
Also typical of such raids, there was what appeared to be a family group, a man, 30, and two women, 38 and 40. Although the women did not have police records, the man had two arrests for aggravated robbery, one arrest for drug trafficking, and three murder arrests.
As always police were quick to report the discovery of two pistols, but who would run a drug operation without protection?
The location was in Fátima y Minerva de Guadalupe in Goicoechea. Police said they had received complaints from
neighbors about the drug business, although that may just be a cover. Certainly many neighbors are drug buyers and users. And some may try to fill the commercial void created by the arrest of their neighbors.
In fact, the local drug business is a substantial part of the country’s underground economy. Proof of that can be seen with individuals smoking crack or marijuana on the streets in lower-income neighborhoods.
Cocaine, of course, is easily available in Costa Rica because drug smugglers heading north frequently use the substance to pay for fuel and other services.