U.S. ship arrivals continue to feed political debate

Opposition political party members are sensitive to the arrival of U.S. warships, even when they are not U.S. warships.

The security minister held a press conference and issued a statement Wednesday after the Partido Acción Ciudadana complained in its own earlier press conference that U.S. military ships are docked without permission in Costa Rican ports.

The issue is a hot topic now being promoted by Prensa Latina, the Cuban news service, and leftist politicians. The actions seem to be an effort to reduce the joint action between the United States and Costa Rica in interdicting illegal drug shipments.

The minister, José María Tijerino Pacheco, said that two supposed warships that docked in Costa Rica between August and October were not military vessels. One was the “Clipper Oceania,” which is a Bahama-flagged tanker and the other is a U.S. Coast Guard boat, the “USCGC Aspen” that services buoys and cleans up oil spills, he said. It docked in Golfito.

Tijerino added that the gun that Acción Ciudadana said the Coast Guard boat sported was really a crane for lifting bouys out of the sea for maintenance.

The issue is before the legislature now because the security ministry is seeking permission again for up to 46 U.S. military craft to visit Costa Rican ports for shore leave. Only about 20 percent of that number actually will make a call on Costa Rica, but officials have no way of knowing now which will, they said.

The legislature has to approve the arrival of foreign ships and has done so routinely every six months since 1999.

U.S. Ambassador Anne Andrew hosted 18 Costa Rican legislators aboard the USS Doyle last week to outline the Joint Maritime Agreement Against Illicit Trafficking between the two countries, the U.S. Embassy reported.

The approval for the coming six months is likely to be approved in the legislature despite opposition party resistance, but they also have appealed the measure to the Sala IV constitutional court.

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