National Public Radio
-- "Costa Rica is Central America's most stable democracy, a peaceful country that abolished its army in 1948 and now draws nearly a million U.S. tourists a year to its national parks and beaches. But it's also right in the middle of the world's most lucrative cocaine trafficking corridor. As Mexican drug cartels push deeper into Central America, they've cast a dark shadow over Costa Rica's idyllic green image.
Recent polls show that crime and security are the leading public concern now in this country of 4.6 million people. The same laid-back attitude and openness to outsiders that draws tourists has also attracted Mexican cartels and their Colombia cocaine suppliers, who warehouse drug loads here and move them up the coastlines or overland toward the U.S.
Local contacts are increasingly paid in raw product for their logistical help, so drug use has jumped, especially for crack cocaine, and Costa Rica's homicide rate has nearly doubled since 2004.
"I do not remember in our whole history a menace like this menace with organized crime," says Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. Chinchilla says Costa Rica's view of itself as a peaceful, law-abiding country in a poor, violent region is now being put to the test by a threat far greater than even the conflicts of the Cold War era."