International Cooperation Helps Costa Rica’s Fight Against Illegal Drugs

International Cooperation Helps Costa Rica’s Fight Against Illegal Drugs

By Dialogo
August 15, 2011

The Costa Rican Coast Guard seized 1.1 tons of marijuana in a joint operation with the United States, Costa Rican Security Minister Mario Zamora indicated on 3 August.

The seizure took place on 29 July, when the U.S. Air Force detected three suspicious vessels near Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast and alerted the security personnel of that Central American country.

When the Coast Guard approached, the drug traffickers on board the vessels opened fire with high-caliber weapons. Two of the boats were intercepted – after their occupants threw the weapons overboard – but the largest vessel, a Jamaican-flagged speedboat, evaded capture on the high seas.

The Coast Guard captured one of the boats about six miles from the coast. The other was detained by agents of the Public Force closer to the coast, near the town of Cienaguita. Both boats were carrying a very potent class of marijuana, Zamora said.

“I’m concerned that these drugs were destined for national consumption,” he added, since Costa Rica was the final destination of the marijuana, which had a retail sale value of 6 million dollars.

Six suspects – four Costa Ricans, one Jamaican, and one Nicaraguan – were detained and are awaiting legal proceedings.

“This is an important success for [Costa Rica and] the United States,” said Martín Arias, director of the National Coast Guard Service. “We’ve had successes in the Pacific, particularly during 2008 and 2009, when we had a peak in drug trafficking by sea.”

Arias said that Costa Rica’s fight against drugs is benefiting from the technology used by the U.S. military.

“In this case, it was a U.S. plane that followed the vessel through its entire route from Jamaica; that would be impossible here,” Arias said. “They have planes, satellites, radars, U.S. technology that we couldn’t afford here in Costa Rica.”

The change in the system of transportation used by drug traffickers to smuggle drugs has made them more difficult to track.

The Mexicans are now using semi-submersibles that are practically undetectable. The drug traffickers are also transporting drugs in international waters, where Costa Rican officials do not have jurisdiction.

Commissioner Juan José Andrade, the director of the Public Force, the country’s police force, said that joint operations by Costa Rican law-enforcement agencies have led to an increase in the seizure of smaller amounts of drugs.

“But there is work being done by the Public Force that is practically invisible,” he affirmed. “Every day, the 3,000 officers working in the country seize small amounts of drugs that add up to tons at the end of the year.” The Costa Rican authorities have seized 1.6 tons of marijuana along the country’s Atlantic coast this year.