Gunmen rule Limón inlet and chase away police

Map shows waterway where gunmen chased away law officers. Graphic: A.M. Costa Rica

Armed men appear to have taken over a Caribbean inlet near Limón. They have threatened persons in boats and ordered them to leave the area. They have fired on the coast guard and police officers who beat a hasty retreat and seem to have forgotten about the incident.

That is the report from the owner of a maritime business in Limón.

The confrontations all stem from the theft of the boat, the La María, which was taken while supposedly being watched by Limón port guards. Thieves took the $30,000 boat that was owned by Industrial Maintenance Divers last month. The story appeared HERE!

Company owner Perry Edwards has not given up the possibility of finding the boat. So some of his employees followed a lead and went upriver from Limón Centro when they heard the boat might be stashed in an inlet.

The waterway is called the Río Cieneguita, and it is more like an inlet just south of Limón Centro.

Edwards said the employees reached a point where someone has hung a net across the waterway to prohibit passage. Three armed men strongly suggested that they go no further. That gave the employees a hint that the boat might be hidden nearby, so they returned two weeks later with police and members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta.

The police and members of the coast guard departed when they were greeted with automatic weapon fire, said Edwards. They ran like scared children, he said. He is irked because there does not seem to have been any report of this to higher ups in San José and because the police and members of the coast guard do not appear to want to respond to the challenge of someone blocking a major waterway. There was no further action.

Edwards said it is clear that the stolen boat with its two 150-horsepower outboard engines has been or is being used in drug trafficking. He said he reported this to the Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta, but was told all their boats were down for repairs. He also blamed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for inaction.

Edwards said that his employees again approached the area where the boat may be hidden again Wednesday and again were ordered away by heavily armed men.

The situation has implications for the United States government, too, because today, with much fanfare, U.S. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew will be handing over two boats to the guardacosta in a ceremony in Caldera on the Pacific. The U.S. Embassy said that President Laura Chinchilla would attend.

Edwards, who now lives in Colombia, also is irked that the La María was stolen in the first place.

He said his employees finally with some difficulty obtained security camera footage that showed clearly the theft of the boat by two men. He said that port employees should have been watching the security television screens and responded to the theft.

He said other boats have suffered major thefts while in the Limón port.

Edwards is the man telecommunications firms call when their undersea cables are cut. His diving firm has special boats and equipment to make these types of repairs. He said his firm has been working offshore from Honduras and has received reports that drug gangs are taking over major parts of the coast. He said he fears the same will happen in Costa Rica.

His fears appear to have substance if armed men are protecting a base near Limón and shooing away Costa Rican authorities. Said Edwards: “What are the people to do? I have over 1,500,000 dollars invested in Limón. But it looks like we may be pulling out. It cannot be that we and police received automatic gun fire and nothing is being done about it. I told police forget about the La Maria. What about the fact that law enforcement and navy received gunfire and nothing is being done or investigated ?”

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