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Arias: Stopping drug trade 'almost impossible'
By IVAN MORENO
Associated Press
2010-11-16 08:53 AM
Former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias said Monday that stopping drug trafficking in Mexico and other countries is "almost impossible."

Arias said that finding a solution to Mexico's drug war will be difficult given the illicit drug demand in wealthy countries, including the United States. He said Mexican President Felipe Calderon is in a tough, unenviable position.

"I wouldn't like to be in Felipe Calderon's shoes because certainly the drug cartels are quite powerful," Arias told The Associated Press. "The solution to this problem is very complicated, very complex because as long as there is a huge demand here in this country and the wealthy countries of the word, it's almost impossible to be able to stop drug trafficking."

More than 28,000 Mexicans have been killed since 2006, when Calderon launched a military-led offensive against the country's drug cartels.

"There's not much we can do," Arias said. "I mean, we also suffer from drug trafficking in Costa Rica. It's almost unavoidable."

Arias, whose term ended this year, spoke to the AP before a fundraising luncheon with the Colorado-based PeaceJam, a group that connects Nobel laureates with young people to work for peace. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, was honored during the event for supporting PeaceJam as it built its first website.

Arias said that Costa Rica has been fortunate because it has not been infiltrated by cartels and has not seen violence like that in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

During his visit, Arias also weighed in on a border dispute between his country and Nicaragua over a piece of land the size of Liechtenstein along the San Juan River, which forms a part of their border.

Last month, Nicaraguan President Danie Ortega sent about 50 soldiers to the area and said they were there to stop drug smuggling.

Arias said Ortega's smuggling allegation was false and that it's a ploy to distract voters in Nicaragua in next year's election.

Arias said Nicaragua is dredging in the San Juan river and that it's using that as an excuse to occupy Costa Rican territory. Costa Rica does not have an army, so it has sent police officers to a town near the disputed area.

Arias said that if Nicaragua does not withdraw its troops, Costa Rica should go to the United Nations Security Council for help.

"Because he's violating our sovereignty," Arias said of Ortega. "It is an aggression against our sovereignty."

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