Security ministry accumulating plenty of firepower

Despite its reputation of not having a military, Costa Rica is quickly increasing its law enforcement personnel and the equipment they use. The security minister was at the legislature Thursday asking for more. The minister, Gustavo Mata Vega, told the Comisión de Seguridad y Narcotráfico that he needed more equipment and resources to strengthen the work of

the police in the face of the realities of world and regional security.

As he was speaking, his ministry, Seguridad Pública, was announcing that the first 291 recruits have begun their basic police course. They are the first of some 1,500 police the ministry is recruiting.

The ministry already has about 10,000 officers.

The ministry officers include the street patrolmen in blue, frontier police, members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas and the Servicio de Vigilancia Áerea. There are other police agencies, such as prison guards, traffic police, tax police and municipal police officers who are under the jurisdiction of other entities. The Judicial Investigating Organization is part of the judiciary.

Mata in his visit to the legislature listed the hardware his ministry recently acquired. This includes two airplanes and two boats. The arrival of three helicopters is awaited. In addition, the ministry has at least one King Air, a top-of-the-line turboprop luxury plane, that

was confiscated on the Caribbean coast, as well as a handful of other aircraft.

The previous administration of the United States is providing $25 to $30 million more in equipment, according to the U.S. Embassy.

The donations, some still to be delivered, include two 110-foot patrol ships based for the Pacific,  two C-145 cargo planes,  a 45-foot vessel, two 38-foot interceptor crafts, 19.5-foot river boats, construction of a hangar and operations center for air operations in Coto 47 at Ciudad Neily, three armored vehicles and more construction at the Kilometer 35 security checkpoint of the Interamericana Sur highway. There were many more lesser donations including a maintenance package for the King Air.

Previously the U.S. government invested in coast guard stations in Flamingo and Golfito as well as financing for a $5 million radar station on Isla del Coco.

The expense of U.S. taxpayer money is not altruistic. Nearly all the donations are directed in one way or another to stopping the shipments of drugs north to the States. Fuerza Pública officers also are known for stopping and frisking mostly young males in searches for drugs, mostly marijuana or crack.

In his appearance before the committee, Mata asked for approval of pending legislation, including a tougher confiscation law to take over drug-connected property. He also asked for approval of a cybercrimes treaty.

He said the police academy would offer bachelor through postgraduate degrees in conjunction with international universities. He said his ministry would coordinate the municipal police forces.

These are the 291 new police recruits who just started training. They were picked from about 1,000 who applied.

These are the 291 new police recruits who just started training. They were picked from about 1,000 who applied.

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