Forbes magazine has an interview with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla up on its website. In it, the interviewer asks why drug cartels have become such a problem for Costa Rica. Chinchilla answers that
The most important factor is location. We are in the middle of the most important drug producers in the South and the most important drug consumers in the North. Since we are in the middle, what you find is a lot of activities in transporting and exporting through Central America. But we cannot move. [laughs] We have to raise the barrier so we can be able to protect our country.
It's not a great question in that it's pretty obvious that CR is right in the middle of the producers and consumers. However, Forbes readers might not know this. Chinchilla found her answer funny as did I.
Anyway, if the most important factor that explains why drug cartels are causing problems in Costa Rica and Central America is the problem of geography, there's not much that can be done about that.
Strengthening the political and judicial institutions in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica is a good thing. Reducing poverty and inequality is another important goal. Making sure that you have enough highly trained police and military to tackle the problems’ affecting you country is a positive development as well.
However, none of this will make a dent in the supply (Colombia, Peru, Bolivia) or demand (the US and Europe). At best, we’re looking at an argument that says we want to make it more difficult for drug traffickers to use the Central American mainland to ship their drugs to the US. Our goal is to make them go back to using the sea or some other alternative.