The Fight against Drug Trafficking is a Fight for Democracy

first_img Interview with Mr. Mario Zamora, Costa Rican Minister of Public Security When Mr. Mario Zamora took office as Costa Rica’s Minister of Public Security on May 1, 2011, he said that his goal was to restrain increased crime rates, as well as to reduce the level of violence exerted in crimes throughout the country. Due to the coordinated efforts from different police units and increased international cooperation, Zamora appears to be achieving very positive results in Costa Rica. Close to two years after assuming this position, Mr. Zamora met with Diálogo to talk about these and other issues. DIÁLOGO: What are the current challenges in terms of safety for Costa Rica? Mr. Mario Zamora, Costa Rican Minister of Public Security: The regional situation entails modifying the strategic partnership used under the counterdrug policy. Currently, we need to adapt to the reality that Central America is becoming more and more global, more interconnected with the world. Costa Rica and other Central American countries now have free trade agreements. This increases the flow of products that not only originate in Central America but also pass through Central America, trade routes are expanding. Each Central American nation has also experienced an increase in tourism. In other words, human mobility has also increased in the region. The scenario I am describing is where control activities and police patrol take place, where routes have been multiplied, as well as the containers that we must check every day. This has caused a significant increase in our national or regional vulnerabilities. However, we also believe that the challenge is to respond to this new scenario with policies that will add professionalism to our police forces, as well as better interaction between law enforcement and criminal justice. I believe the challenge is no longer the amount of drugs we manage to seize. That was what it used to be like traditionally; the average given by each country about their victories and the efficiency of their systems. I believe that the current new element is the arrests, especially of drug trafficking leaders. In my opinion, this is the new element that determines victories and efficiency in this matter, to be capable of disrupting the organizations that use Central America and Costa Rica to smuggle drugs. We also have a new scenario, where the inflow of cash is generated by drug trafficking and by passing through Central America in large quantities. This provides an opportunity for corruption among government officials, which is a major threat against democracy. Drug trafficking has never been such a menace to the validity of democracy as it is today. In addition to how drug smuggling impacted the region previously, currently it is evident that money is used to influence public institutions to weaken our country. DIÁLOGO: What is the importance of a meeting such as CANSEC 2013? Minister Zamora: This type of meetings gather decision makers, but it is necessary to take further steps to move forward, as we have done in Costa Rica with the United States for over ten years, where U.S. Coast Guard vessels have law enforcement authority, granted by the Costa Rican government, in order to patrol our national waters. I remember ten years ago this was seen as a loss of sovereignty. We almost said “well, now you become a sort of U.S. protectorate; you are renouncing your sovereignty.” It was seen as an example of international submission, and not as an example of a sovereign country that has to establish frank and direct dialogue with others. After ten years of the joint patrol agreement with the United States, I only see great victories in this situation, which would not have happened without the support and solidarity of the U.S. I believe that one of the best safeguards of the country is to have re-interpreted the concept of sovereignty, not to see it as an attack; on the contrary, to see it as international support where other governments join the Costa Rican government with their efforts to counter drug trafficking in our territory. DIÁLOGO: There are about 500,000 square kilometers of Costa Rican sea, right? Minister Zamora: It is more than ten times the size of our surface. Nevertheless, our Castillian culture, not only in Costa Rica, but also in Central America, makes us only see land. We are countries that do not project much towards the sea, the more we do that , the more we renounce it. And this implied renunciation has allowed drug traffickers to use our Pacific and Atlantic coasts as transit routes for drug smuggling. It is important to mention that we also need to adopt a new culture, where we don’t only think about what happens on our soil, but also what happens at sea. In addition to countering drug trafficking, Costa Rica is also fighting for the environmental protection of its ecological heritage. Generally, someone from the outside would see these as two totally different fights. How is environmental protection connected to the fight against drug trafficking? When we realize that supporters of drug trafficking usually practice illegal fishing, masking their drug related activities with fishing, it is also when we realize that we need to integrate this type of effort. On several occasions when we are looking for illegal fishing, we end up finding drugs, or busting supporters of drug traffickers. DIÁLOGO: Are these fishermen an example of families similar to drug cartels? Minister Zamora: That would be an example. Likewise, we have detected that drug trafficking is also doing intelligence in the area. How do they do it? Someone who visits fishers’ bars know who has been economically unsuccessful, who is about to lose their boat, which will be taken by the bank. Perhaps a person who would have never agreed to collaborate with drug traffickers is now willing to do so under these circumstances. DIÁLOGO: What is your opinion on the question asked by many: “Why is the government of the Costa Rica devoting resources to interdiction? That’s a problem in the United States …” Minister Zamora: There is a cause-effect relationship. It is untrue that drug trafficking occurs through that area without making an impact on our territory. Maybe that was true in the first stage. Currently, there is an interconnection. They [drug traffickers] have secondary markets, and the market has simply expanded. There is more opportunity to deliver drugs where the market is bigger. Basically, they are led by commercial logic, and within that business logic they would like to be able to sell to more markets. This forces them to produce more, for a higher profit. They are not forced to sell only in Euros or Dollars. If Costa Rican purchasing power suddenly allows the business in Colones to be profitable as well, they will resort to it. We have to think of drug trafficking as a transnational enterprise that maximizes its dividends. We should also incorporate the consumer’s attention into this strategy. When we detect a drug-dependent person, that person has to do something to obtain money in order to buy their daily doses, and this problem is solved by stealing parts of street lights or snatching a lady’s purse or the cell phone from a child, to squander and have the money available, well, that is not only a public health issue, but also a law enforcement issue. Therefore, the goal of including detoxification policies for these people as part of the general strategy is something we consider crucially important, because we should not only fight against the big drug lord. DIÁLOGO: There are many poor people willing to sell their souls to the devil because of their drug addiction, correct? Minister Zamora: Exactly. It is important not to encourage consumption; on the contrary, we must ensure that consumers free themselves from the bondage that is their drug addiction. So, we have a huge fight ahead; however, all this puts a risk on the validity of the democratic system. I insist on this a lot. It is not just about fighting against another crime; it is a drug addiction suffered by certain parts of society in our countries that undermines democracy because it allows drug traffickers to impose their rules, to substitute the rule of government by imposing their own laws, their exchange system and obligations, hence affecting citizens of a democracy by restricting their rights and freedom. DIÁLOGO: Minister Zamora, the issue is that many people adopt a sense of defeat. They say: “Well, this problem will go on forever …” Minister Zamora: Well, the fight for freedom has been going on since humankind exists. So we are not going to say that today we will give up on the fight for freedom because there have been individuals that have attempted to violate it throughout history. If you say, “well, the fight against drug trafficking has not been able to be extinguished…” Well, neither has the fight against slavery. In the past, slavery was the issue; now it is human trafficking. It is the new way. In other words, you can realize that the worst scourges are still there, but it does not mean we should stop fighting against them. So, I think there are people who want this to turn into a soccer match where the referee whistles and we have to win in 90 minutes, otherwise they will. If we do not win, well, the victory is theirs. No, no. We are engaged in a long, tedious struggle. In memory of so many people that have died for the State and its institutions, in order to defend democracy and fight against drug trafficking, to forget that effort would be wrong and giving up is the easy solution of saying well, “they win because they still exist.” By Dialogo May 20, 2013last_img read more

PLN to receive Rp 9.6t from state coffers to build power infrastructure

first_img“We will use the funds as equity and reduce PLN loans,” PLN president director Zulkifli Zaini told House of Representatives lawmakers in Jakarta on Monday evening.His presentation and the regulations show that 86 percent of the capital is slated to develop transmission infrastructure, including high-voltage power lines and substations, all in western Indonesia except for several projects in Sulawesi.The country’s heavy investment in the infrastructure of electricity distribution is part of Indonesia’s efforts to achieve a 100 percent electrification ratio this year. The ratio – a measure of the proportion of communities with electricity – reached 98.89 percent last year.However, Zulkifli said the latest capital injection was insufficient to meet Indonesia’s power infrastructure targets. He said that meeting such targets would cost an estimated Rp 15.2 trillion, funds that the company has been raising through bank loans and global bonds. PLN slated 3 percent of the working capital injection to be used for electricity distribution infrastructure and 11 percent for renewable energy power plants in Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Aceh, Papua island and East Nusa Tenggara. The latter two are Indonesia’s most impoverished regions.“The [3 percent] capital is only for renewables. Not for fossil fuels,” added Zulkifli.Energy analyst Fabby Tumiwa said the use of renewable energy was cost-effective, as the state capital injections would be used to electrify 433 remote villages, most of which were located in West Papua and Papua.Many of the targeted villages in Papua are located in densely forested mountain areas.Read also: Indonesia to electrify 433 remote eastern villages“The most cost-effective solution to provide electricity there [in Papua and West Papua] is through the use of local energy, the renewable energy sources. An even better option is to distribute the plants’ electricity with a mini-grid or micro-grid,” he said.In electrifying the villages, PLN plans to expand electricity networks, build renewable energy power plants and distribute handheld ‘Talis’ battery packs. PLN estimates the electrification program would cost at least Rp 1.26 trillion.For PLN, expanding its electricity networks is also a strategy to weather a domestic electricity oversupply that strains the company’s cash flow due to the lower demand during the pandemic.The electricity giant is particularly focused on expanding its network to high industrial activity regions such as manufacturing-heartland Java and mineral-rich Sulawesi.PLN’s spending on privately owned power plants (IPPs) is projected to exceed its own fuel spending by 2021, due to the oversupply, warns a recent Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) study. IEEFA director Melissa Brown, who authored the study, said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the financial problem as electricity domestic demand collapsed yet PLN remains obligated to buy a certain amount for electricity from IPPs.“The COVID-19 crisis has upended Indonesia’s financial settings and PLN’s dealings with the Indonesian public and global markets will need to be adjusted to face the new reality,” she said in a statement on April 7.PLN booked a net loss of Rp 38.9 trillion in this year’s first quarter, down from a net profit of Rp 4.12 trillion in the same period last year, after the rupiah exchange rate fell to a record low against the greenback in March.Topics : State-owned electricity giant PLN is slated to receive Rp 9.6 trillion (US$695 million) in state capital injections (PMN) from the government this year to develop power infrastructure in Indonesia and increase the country’s electrification ratio.The capital comprises Rp 5 trillion from the 2020 state budget and Rp 4.6 trillion diverted from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry budget. PLN will use the capital to develop renewable energy power plants, power lines and substations.The funds allocation is stipulated in Government Regulation No. 37/2020 and No. 36/2020, both of which were issued on July 7.last_img read more