Merida Initative increases aid to Costa Rica

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    The United States’ Merida Initiative will be providing an additional $1 million for the improvement of money laundering prevention methods and improvement of the Costa Rican police force, bolstering the previous allocation of $4.3 million Costa Rica received earlier this year.

    “The United States understands Costa Rica,” said Janina del Vecchio, security minister, praising the additional allocation. “They understand that (preventing drug-trafficking) isn’t just a fight on the seas, it’s also a fight in the streets … and that this is a joint task.”

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    The U.S. Congress approved a $465 million allocation in the first phase of the initiative in 2008, with the intent of controlling drug trafficking, trans-national crime and money laundering. The division of the funds – $400 million going to Mexico and $65 million to Central America – have drawn criticism officials in Costa Rica, which are reported as saying the lopsided allocation is leaving Central America open to invasion by drug cartels.

    “In … fighting drug trafficking, no amount is sufficient,” Stagno said. “Drug cartels have many financial and human resources.”

    “But,” he added, “it certainly helps…. We hope there is money for a higher allocation in the future.”

    It appears that the inequality will begin to correct itself in the future as U.S. officials stated that Costa Rica should receive an additional $8.3 million next year, increasing security spending to at least $12 million, while aid to Mexico is expected to decrease by $20 million.

    “We know this is a concern of many citizens, and it’s also a concern for us,” said Peter Brennan, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy. “Costa Rica is a country that needs more help in security,” he said. “The idea is to attack this in an integral way.”

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