Shark finning and drug running

by | Jul 20, 2009

(Translated from “Aleteo y narcotráfico” opinion-ed in La Nación, the major newpaper in Costa Rica.)

Shark Finning and Drug Running

The stage is set for blatant perversities to occur at Puntarenas’ private docks

What do shark finners and cocaine traffickers have in common? Both take advantage of the legal loop holes facilitated by the Executive branch in order to carry out their villainy at private docks in Puntarenas.

It’s not a coincidence that the fisheries manager currently jailed for his alleged drug trafficking involvement, has been one of the most fervent opponents to our campaign against the illegal use of private docks by the international shark finning fleet.

Systematic Infringements. Since 2003, Pretoma has tirelessly denounced the authority’s inability to uphold the law and subsequent promotion of its infringement.

According to article 211 of the General Custom’s Law Regulations, the importation of products must occur at public docks, and only permitted to occur at private docks in extreme or unanticipated circumstances.

Article 212 of the same Regulation allows the Customs Chief to authorize these private docks only in the event of non-commercial tourism.

There is no gray area within these articles. There exist certain activities that are of public interest and that the State is obliged to uphold. Furthermore, these activities can only be realized where there is sufficient public infrastructure and which fall under the Public Administration Law.

But ever since 1998, authorities at Incopesca, the Internal Revenue Ministry and the Public Works Ministry have conspired to systematically violate the law in ways that not only permit, but rather foment the international fleet’s illegal use of the private docks.

In fact, three years ago the Constitutional Court ordered the aforementioned authorities, along with the Environmental Ministry, to halt the use of private docks not adorned with public infrastructure. The order was seconded by the Comptrollership, and the Legislative Assembly’s Environmental Commission recommended its immediate compliance.

However, the solicited authorities took it upon themselves to ignore the court’s order and up to the present time the fleet continues to offload at sites equipped only with private infrastructure. And all the while these acts are backed by illegal regulations and resolutions that attempt to justify their actions that blatantly omit the public’s interest.

It should be mentioned that the entire situation doesn’t only facilitate shark finning, but in addition promotes tax evasion, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and even compromises national security.

Basically, the stage is set for anyone who desires to circumvent the proper controls and do whatever blatantly perverse acts they desire at Puntarenas’ private docks.

Deaf ears. We’ve appealed to Javier Florez from the Agricultural Ministry for help, to Jorge Rodríguez from the Environmental Ministry, to Jenny Philips the Vice Minister of the Internal Revenue Ministry, to Laura Chinchilla when she was still Vice President, all the way up to President Arias himself, but none of them wanted to step forward and enforce the private dock law, stating that you can’t make anyone do the impossible.

What’s so impossible about it? Through various law suits, we’ve managed to do away with the mechanisms that certain entities have fabricated to legitimize their actions, and we’ve closed the private docks in accordance with the law in 2004 and 2006.

Regrettably, both closures only lasted two weeks – sufficient time for the culprits to draw up more illegal resolutions and other party tricks to perpetuate the situation. This has obligated us to place even more denouncements that are currently trickling through the courts. Meanwhile, the illegality continues unabated.

We hope that recent events involving the shipment of sharks stuffed with cocaine opens the Executive branch’s eyes and, as the State Attorney put it referring specifically to this case, “That Costa Rica stop running around and acting ridiculous”.

So ridiculous does the country act that its former president Pacheco actually won “2005’s International Shark Enemy Award” for not enforcing the private dock laws. The only thing different now is that the award’s title would have to be changed to “Shark Enemy and Drug Dealing Friend”.Lea la opinión de Randall Aruaz (Presidente de Pretoma) en La Nación, el periódico de mayor distribución en Costa Rica.

“Aleteo y narcotráfico”