High seas drug suspects included minor as crewman

One of the Costa Ricans nabbed on the high seas by a U.S. Navy ship was a minor. He was delivered to port along with four adult Costa Ricans and one Nicaraguan citizen.

All were part of the crew of the María Canela, a fishing boat with a Puntarenas home port. The USS Boone intercepted the craft en route north from the Galapagos Islands, thus setting off a minor diplomatic conflict. Some lawmakers did not want to allow the U.S. Navy ship to dock in Costa Rica. Such legislative approval is required.

As it turned out, the Boone already had planned to refuel at another Central American port, and the prisoners were transferred to the USS Rentz, which got a last-minute permission from the Asamblea Legislativa Wednesday. Some lawmakers contended that because the María Canela flew a Costa Ricans flag, it was an extension of the national territory. However, the U.S. Navy works under an agreement with Costa Rica that regulates anti-drug patrols.

The Poder Judicial identified the captured Costa Rican crewmen by the last names of Núñez Núñez, Moreira González, Rivas Castrillo and Campos Bolandi, the Nicaragua has the last names of Díaz Pérez. All five were being questioned Friday by prosecutors. The youth was directed to the Fiscalía Adjunta Penal Juvenil.

Three Colombians on the same boat are headed to court in the United States. The U.S. Navy said they confiscated 1,200 kilos of cocaine, and some lawmakers were anxious to have the entire amount unloaded in Puntarenas. The Navy just provided 10 kilos as a sample for use at trial.

Costa Rica has not been rigorous in safeguarding cocaine. Men later identified as police officers, stole a large shipment from the prosecutor’s office in Golfito. In another case, men working at an incinerator where drugs are burned liberated some of the substance. Both cases resulted in arrests.

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