Costa Rica Adds Interceptor Patrol Boat to Fight Organized Crime

Costa Rica Adds Interceptor Patrol Boat to Fight Organized Crime

By Geraldine Cook
February 02, 2016

Costa Rica added an Eduardoño 450 Interceptor patrol boat to its Coast Guard fleet to fight transnational criminal enterprises.

Costa Rica’s National Coast Guard Service (SNGC, for its Spanish acronym) recently continued to bolster its investment in the counter-narcotics fight by adding an Eduardoño 450-model Patrol boat to the fleet that the country uses to protect its territorial waters from transnational criminal enterprises.

The Eduardoño 450 patrol boat will help protect the country against organized crime and narcotrafficking groups. Transnational criminal organizations exploit the country’s geographical location by using it as a hub to transport cocaine from South America to Mexico, the United States, and Europe.

“Costa Rica is aware that it should provide greater security within its territorial sea, and greater surveillance within the Exclusive Economic Zone,” said José Miguel Madrigal López, Deputy Director of the National Coast Guard Service within Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry. “Costa Rica is committed in the short term with this goal. By not having ocean-going vessels nor the necessary budget to buy or build them, we opted for this type of vessels to improve presence in these areas.”

New equipment and infrastructure

Costa Rica purchased the boat a few months after it built a Coast Guard bridge in late 2015 in Barra de Colorado, on the Caribbean’s extreme northeastern coast. Acquiring the boat was the latest in a series of investments by Costa Rica into equipment and infrastructure that supports security services.

In 2012, Costa Rica used $160,000 provided by the Ministry of Public Security to rebuild the SNGC base in Barra del Colorado. The new facility includes new dormitory buildings and additional storage and office space, according to a report in Nosotros, a
Military magazine produced by the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

In 2011, Costa Rica purchased four interceptor ships for drug enforcement operations for the first time. Before the country procured these vessels, security forces used ships that were donated or seized from criminals for drug interdiction operations. Also in 2011, the SNGC spent $600,000 to repair a 65-foot long patrol boat that was assigned to the Moin terminal in Puerto Limón, on the Atlantic coast. The SNGC also spent $200,000 to repair a 36-foot Interceptor boat and another $700,000 to outfit two other Interceptors with new equipment.

The investments have paid off, as the
SNGC seized 16,433 kilograms of drugs in 2015, with 11,432 kilograms confiscated in the Pacific and the other 5,001 during operations in the Caribbean, according to Madrigal López. In 2014, Costa Rica seized more than 26 metric tons of cocaine – a record amount for one year and up from 21.8 metric tons seized in 2013. During the year, Costa Rican law enforcement authorities confiscated $13 million from narcotraffickers and broke up 124 national and international criminal organizations.

International partnerships

Costa Rica disbanded its Army in 1948, leaving the SNGC to lead the country’s counter-narcotics fight on water, while the Drug Control Police has been at the forefront in the fight on land. The nation has also relied on its international cooperation as part of its strategy to prevent narcotrafficking or organized crime groups from exploiting Costa Rica’s land and close to 590 square kilometers of territorial waters.”

“We have strategic alliances with the governments of Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. With Colombia and Mexico it is basically [about] information, with the U.S. it is about patrolling together and exchanging information, which has resulted in the success of operations,” Madrigal López explained. “We are making efforts to acquire more ships of this type in the short and medium term and to improve staff training and strengthen relations in this area with the aforementioned governments.”

Costa Rica participates in Operation MARTILLO, a multinational mission to crack down on illicit drug trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. The operation, which authorities launched in January 2012, combines the forces of 10 countries in the Americas – Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Canada, and the U.S. – along with France, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom to disrupt transnational criminal organizations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone. The nations’ security forces work together to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The 14 nations have combined to seize more than 71,000 kilograms of cocaine as part of Operation MARTILLO in the Eastern Pacific’s drug-trafficking zone in fiscal year 2015, which surpassed the totals of the previous years combined. The operation has led to more than 400 metric tons of cocaine being disrupted as of March 2015, denying narcotraffickers $8 billion in potential revenue, according to U.S. Southern Command.

Interdictions at sea are highly coordinated, with the security forces of the participating countries partnering to identify, stop, and search suspicious vessels. About 80 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States is trafficked through Mexico and Central America, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board stated in its 2014 Report.