When Costa Rican lawmakers visited a U.S. Navy ship in Golfito last month, the crew had just confiscated more than 600 kilos of cocaine off the coast of Panamá.
U.S. Ambassador Anne Andrew hosted a group of 18 Costa Rican legislators at USS Doyle when the boat was docked at Golfito Dec. 9. Three days earlier a U.S. Coast Guard boarding team and Navy crew members intercepted the 60-foot long fishing vessel Rio Tuira in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Fourth Fleet announced this week.
The interception took place about 180 miles off the coast of Panama. A Navy-Coast Guard boarding team recovered 22 bales of cocaine, weighing approximately 499 kilos (1,100 pounds) worth an estimated $15.4 million wholesale value, the Fourth Fleet said.
The drugs were seized by a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment from Tactical Law Enforcement Team South, it added. Five suspected smugglers were taken into custody. Criminal prosecution of this case will be shared between the United States and Panama, the Fourth Fleet said.
After the visit, the Costa Rican lawmakers specifically excluded U.S. Navy ships from docking at Costa Rican ports for shore leave and resupply as of Jan. 1. The legislature did give permission to a list of U.S. Coast Guard vessels.
Lawmakers are expected to reconsider the rejection of the Navy ships when they return from Christmas vacation.
According to the Costa Rican Constitution, lawmakers have to approve the arrival of foreign warships. Since 1999, the U.S. Embassy has supplied a list of possible arrivals, and lawmakers routinely approved them. Most of the ships on the list never make Costa Rican port.
The arrival of the boats are an economic boost for coastal towns like Golfito and Puntarenas.
Six months ago, a Cuban new outlet claimed that the United States was sending 7,000 marines and 46 boats to Costa Rica. That made a splash in the international media and may have been a warm up for propaganda surrounding the Nicaraguan invasion of a part of northern Costa Rica.
Some lawmakers objected in November when a new list for the period Jan. 1 to June 30 was submitted by the security ministry. Costa Rica shares drug partols with U.S. forces.