Costa Rica Crime Groups Diversifying Oil Theft Techniques

(InSight Crime, Parker Asmann, 10.Oct.2018) — The ways in which gangs of fuel thieves in Costa Rica are tapping oil pipelines in order to steal and later resell the good are growing increasingly sophisticated, providing further evidence of the growing strength of criminal groups in the Central American nation.

What were previously rustic oil taps are now becoming more sophisticated as groups of fuel thieves in Costa Rica are paying experts as much as 3 million colons (around $5,000) to perform professionally made illegal oil taps on pipelines, CRHoy reported.

Since 2015, the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery (Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo – RECOPE) — the country’s state-owned oil company — has seen an increase in the number of illegal oil taps, causing millions of dollars in losses, according to Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Agency (Organismo de Investigación Judicial – OIJ) and intelligence agency (Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad – DIS).

In May of this year, authorities arrested six suspected members of an oil theft network operating in the city of Heredia just north of the capital San José that allegedly stole at least $2 million from the state oil refinery, La Nación reported.

Just weeks later, authorities arrested 14 other suspected members of a different oil theft network operating in the city of Limón on the country’s Caribbean coast that allegedly stole more than $2.1 million in oil, EFE reported. Authorities also seized an AK-47 rifle, ammunition, trucks with specific storage tanks for oil, as well as bulletproof vests, among other things.

InSight Crime Analysis

The increased effort crime groups in Costa Rica are reportedly putting into their oil theft operations suggests that they are growing stronger and diversifying their criminal portfolios as a result.

A rise in coca production in Colombia since 2013 and the revitalization of Central America as one of the main corridors for cocaine being trafficked to US markets has transformed Costa Rica’s role as a key transshipment point in the drug trade. This has, in turn, provided increased revenues for local crime groups, which have diversified their portfolios and expanded into other illegal activities like oil theft and illegal gold mining.

Oil theft is big business in Latin America, and the industry is largely considered to be a relatively low-risk, high-reward revenue stream for crime groups. In Mexico, for example, it is a billion dollar industry that may prove more profitable than the drug trade, according to a recent report from Rolling Stone.

As crime groups grow stronger, it makes sense that they would venture into other, more profitable criminal activities like oil theft. However, it remains to be seen if Costa Rica will face the same deadly consequences that the lucrative industry has created in Mexico. Authorities in Costa Rica are already confronting rising violence due to increased fighting between criminal groups for control of local drug markets.


FDI in LAC Region Falls for Third Straight Year

(Energy Analytics Institute, Ian Silverman, 12.Jul.2018) – Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Latin America and the Caribbean fell for a third straight year in 2017, reported the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean or CEPAL by its Spanish acronym.

The details were revealed in CEPAL’s annual report titled “FDI in Latin America and the Caribbean 2018.”


Costa Rica to Use Plastics for Roads

(Energy Analytics Institute, Ian Silverman, 10.Jul.2018) – A small Central American country will be considered a pioneer in the region with use of a type of “eco-friendly asphalt” that gives a new life to plastics.

This week the Costa Rican government announced the country would begin to pave streets with a mixture of asphalt and crushed plastics thanks to a development by the National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models, the University of Costa Rica and several recycling organizations, reported the daily newspaper LaRed21.

The “green asphalt” is already used in other countries such as England, India and Canada, but Costa Rica will be the first from the Latin American region to implement the process.


No Oil, No Army: Costa Rica First Nation To Eliminate Fossil Fuels

(Sputnik News, 8.July.2018) — Costa Rica will become the first nation in the world to completely eliminate fossil fuels.

In May, the country’s new president, 38-year-old former journalist Carlos Alvarado announced the plan to ban fossil fuels during his inauguration speech.

“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first,” Alvarado told a crowd of supporters, the Independent reported.

“When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate… that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” he promised.
Over 99 percent of Costa Rica’s electricity is currently generated through renewable energy sources. However, achieving zero-carbon transport, one of any country’s big environmental challenges, will be arduous.

According to Jose Daniel Lara, a Costa Rican energy researcher at the University of California-Berkeley, the complete elimination of fossil fuels in just a few years — the president’s goal — is unlikely.

“A proposal like this one must be seen by its rhetoric value and not by its technical precision,” Lara told the Independent.

Oscar Echeverría, president of the Vehicle and Machinery Importers Association, noted that speedily achieving 100-percent clean transport will be problematic because the required infrastructure does not yet exist.

“If there’s no previous infrastructure, competence, affordable prices and waste management, we’d be leading this process to failure. We need to be careful,” Echeverría said.

The demand for cars in Costa Rica is on the rise. According to 2016 data from the country’s National Registry, there were twice as many cars registered as babies born in that year. In addition, the country’s National Meteorological Institute revealed that 64 percent of the Central American country’s emissions are from energy use and more than two-thirds of that can be attributed to the transport sector.

Costa Rica is nonetheless setting a powerful example to the rest of the world, regardless of how long it may take to wean its transport network off of fossil fuels entirely, according to Monica Araya, a Costa Rican sustainability expert and director of Costa Rica Limpia, an organization that advocates renewable energy and electric transport.

“Getting rid of fossil fuels is a big idea coming from a small country. This is an idea that’s starting to gain international support with the rise of new technologies,” Araya said.



Costa Rica Generated Renewable Energy for 300 Days

(Independent, Tom Embury-Dennis, 22.Nov.2017) – Costa Rica’s electricity has been produced entirely using renewable energy for 300 days since the start of January.

With more than a month of 2017 to go, the Central American country is set to smash its own annual record of green energy use. In 2015 the nation went 299 days using only renewables.

According to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), the nation of five-million people has also clocked up 201 consecutive days of total renewable energy production since 1 May.

Costa Rica currently generates more than 99 per cent of its electricity using five different renewable sources; hydropower (78%), wind (10%), geothermal energy (10%), biomass and solar (1%).

In contrast, the United States generated about 15 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2016, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Coal and natural gas together made up nearly two-thirds of US electricity generation and nuclear power provided the remaining 19 per cent.

Costa Rican clean development adviser Dr Monica Araya said earlier this year the extent of Costa Rica’s renewable electricity generation is a “fantastic achievement“.

But she added: “It hides a paradox, which is that nearly 70 per cent of all our energy consumption is oil.”

The 99 per cent figure only refers to electricity usage, not gas used for heating or fuel used in vehicles, for example.

Costa Rica hosts more than five per cent of the world’s species biodiversity despite a landmass that covers 0.03 per cent of the planet.

While dams provided the majority of the country’s electricity, they can have destructive environmental and social consequences, such as affecting previously healthy rivers, disrupting wildlife and displacing indigenous communities.