Costa Rica is most famous for its lush national parks, evergreen rainforests, white beaches, and thermal springs. The country’s parks draw an average of 300,000 tourists per year, generating approximately $2.1 billion a year that makes up roughly 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Unfortunately, Costa Rica’s parks, jungles, and marshes do not only attract tourists. These also call in drug traffickers, who may have found a vast, lightly populated, and less policed paradise in these areas. They often use these places as a stop-off point and meet up with other traffickers, exchanging drugs including Colombian cocaine, which will eventually find its way to the United States.
Security is limited and not as strict in these areas (only park rangers often do rounds and they seldom complete the rounds considering the wide 1.5 million acres of park land). This is why some are able to grow marijuana amid park trees without being caught.
Warding Off Drug Traffickers
Efforts to catch and ward off these drug traffickers have been continually increased the national parks. Their efforts are bearing fruits as lightly armed park rangers have been able to seize more than 6.6 tons of cocaine in the first half of this year, almost 1 ton were found just this January in a swampy mud in the Palo Seco park.
During the previous year, however, a total of 8.9 tons of cocaine were seized, 3 tons of which were obtained in the first half of 2011. Despite doubling efforts and results, however, drug traffickers continue to come in and use the country’s parks to meet up with drug shipments safely and conveniently.
These individuals manage to stay off the radar of local police and park rangers by trying to blend in with other tourists and campers. Their frequent visits and stays prompted them to build and establish encampments which serve as their house while waiting for their shipments. Park rangers have reported to see gasoline containers, benches for sitting, remains of water and food supplies, and canvas to cover up drugs inside their encampments
Until now, park rangers are doing their best to control, if not completely eliminate, the incursions of drug traffickers and gangs in the country’s national forests and parks. Although it is believed that tourists are highly unlikely to bump into cocaine smugglers, it won’t hurt for park rangers to constantly keep their opens and ensure no tourist will wander in the depths of these forests, where drug traffickers and gangs are most likely encamping.
After all, there’s always that overly active and extremely adventurous surfer who won’t stop at anything just for adventure. Park rangers need to ensure all tourists are safe from having a confrontation with the drug traffickers and gang members.