Costa Rican authorities have conducted a series of raid against what they believe is an international arms trafficking ring with links to Mexico, Colombia and Panama.
Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Unit (OIJ) and Attorney General's Office conducted 11 raids of sites in and around capital city San Jose suspected of being part of an arms trafficking ring, reported crhoy. Three offices belonging to the Ministry of Public Security were included in the raid, as they are under investigation for facilitating the importation and registration of the weapons, reported AFP.
The Attorney General's Office said the armory Martin Armar S.A. legally imported the weapons from countries like the United States and Turkey which were supposed to be destined for private security companies. However they were actually sold to third parties within Costa Rica as well as in Panama, according to crhoy.
Authorities broke up an arms trafficking network in 2013 involving the same armory, which was reportedly used by elements of Colombia's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as a front to smuggle weapons and drugs through Mexico.
It is unclear how many weapons have been trafficked to date, however the head of Costa Rica's judicial police force stated it was a "very large" quantity of firearms, reported AFP.
InSight Crime Analysis
It makes sense arms trafficking networks are popping up in Costa Rica, given the country's increasing importance as a transit point in the international drug trade. Costa Rica's strategic geographical positioning and inexperience in combating international drug trafficking has made it attractive not only for the FARC, but also Mexican cartels like the Sinaloa Cartel and the Knights Templar. These drug trafficking groups not only create a demand for illegal firearms within Costa Rica, but also have the means and resources to smuggle weapons abroad.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica
The recent arms trafficking sting is the latest indication Costa Rica may no longer be the "Switzerland of Central America." Murders reached a three-year high in 2014, suggesting the influx of drugs and weapons into the country are contributing to an increase in rates of crime and violence.