June 27, 2006


Law enforcement officers are about to clean up the area around the Hotel Del Rey, according to Johnny Araya, mayor of San José.

The mayor is moving against the Del Rey's general geographical area because he thinks it is one of the two spots in the city where the average Costa Rican is at risk.

Araya made his comments during an interview program on Radio Monumental Monday morning. He said a law enforcement task force would have moved already against the persons who frequent the Del Rey area except that Fernando Berrocal, the security minister, was hospitalized briefly.

He said the other danger area for Costa Ricans is on the Paseo de la Vacas in the northwest section of town. That is an area inhabited principally by persons from the Dominican Republic.

Fernando Berrocal
Security Minister

He said the other danger area for Costa Ricans is on the Paseo de la Vacas in the northwest section of town. That is an area inhabited principally by persons from the Dominican Republic.

Expats and North American tourists have been complaining about the environs along Avenida 1 and Calle 9 for months. The area has been the scene of muggings and holdups, although the bulk of the crimes are not reported.

Sex tourists escort women from the Del Rey to hotels along the Pedestrian Boulevard and are vulnerable to gangs of muggers. Several readers have commented on the situation, and one said that the muggers integrate themselves into the lines of people waiting for buses until a victim comes by.

Araya said that many of those professionals who use the Del Rey as a place to arrange meetings for prostitution have false identity papers. He said they are mainly Colombians, Dominicans and Haitians. He said checking out these individuals and those vendors and others who congregate outside the hotel, nearby casinos and bars is a priority.

He said that he was to have a meeting later Monday with top police officials to plan the operation. He did not say when but sometime over the weekend is a likely time. He was meeting with officials from the Judicial Investigating Organization, the Fuerza Pública and his own Policía Municipal. He said he also would seek help from the Dirección General de Migración to handle foreigners.

Immigration agents and police sometimes conduct raids that enter the first floor of the Del Rey where a casino, slot machines and two bars are located. Persons who do not have adequate identification are detained.

But Araya seemed to be taking about a much more intensive operation. And he specifically wanted to target the many people who hang around the street corners. Some are said to sell drugs and others are said to pimp minors.

The fact that the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, Berrocal, will be part of the operation suggests that it is not the normal Saturday night sweep.

This is a screen shot of a fake Web site that smugglers used
to give their firm repectability, according to the
director of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

A.M. Costa Rica staff--Two criminal organizations that used Costa Rican locations to export cocaine to Europe have been broken up, law enforcement officials said Monday.

The first, a company that shipped cocaine in potted plants involved four Costa Ricans and a Colombian, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Some 326 kilos of cocaine were confiscated, and four more persons were arrested by Dutch police. More arrests are expected in Colombia.

The second was a ring that packed cocaine into cans of palmito for shipment to Holland. Four Colombians, including one woman, and an Italian were
detained in this investigation, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. Officials displayed some of the 2,000 cans of palmito or hearts of palm that were confiscated. About 100 kilos of cocaine were confiscated. The drugs and the palmito was going to the Netherlands via Spain, officials said.

The operation involving the potted plants began in November 2005. A businessman with the last names of Castro Cerdas, who lives in Guácimo, was linked to the shipments, said the Policía de Control de Drogas of the ministry. He runs the companies Maravillas Tropicales del Caribe and Agrícola Palma Real. The ornamental plants were to be shipped by boat in refrigerated containers to Rotterdam.

Also detained was an associate with the last names of Solís Peñaranda, officials said. In all, six raids were made Monday in San José, Heredia and Limón. A Colombian with the last names of Urriago García was detained in Cuatro Reinas de Tibás as a suspect in hiding the drugs in the plants, officials said, adding that the man had a conviction for drug trafficking in 1889. Also held was a Costa Rican with the last names of Salazar Ulate. He lives in Trinidad de Moravia.

A man with the last names of Rodríguez Cordero was detained in San Isidro de Heredia on suspicion of warehousing the drugs and moving the cargo by truck. The drugs were believed to have come by sea from Colombia to Panamá where they were moved overland to Costa Rica.

The individuals who were detained in the investigation of the drugs hidden in the cans of palmito were not identified by Jorge Rojas Vargas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

However, he did say that the individuals operated a fake company, Didusa S.A. The firm has its own Web site to give the impression that the business was involved in many other exports, including wood and furniture.

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