No action by legislature on OK for U.S. warship

Mario Zamora Cordero, security minister, presents a note of appreciation to Anne Slaughter Andrew, the U.S. ambassador, in recognition of the work by the crew and staff of the UDD Confort, that visited Puntarenas.

Lawmakers do not seem to be moved by a request from the security ministry to allow the USS Boone to dock in Puntarenas with five Costa Ricans accused of international drug smuggling.

The Asamblea Legislativa did not even mention the situation in its regular meeting Wednesday afternoon.

A proposal from the Ministerio de Gobernación. Policía y Seguridad Pública has been languishing in the legislature for three months. This is a routine request from the U.S. Embassy, channeled through the security ministry, to allow U.S. ships on drug patrol to dock at Costa Rican ports. The Costa Rican Constitution requires legislative approval of such visits by foreign warships.

The USS Confort, a hospital ship that completed a humanitarian mission in Puntarenas nearly did not get permission to dock because the legislature moved so slowly. That was a separate and individual request. Finally approval was given July 23.

Surgeons aboard the Confort did 139 procedures, ministry officials said Wednesday. Physicians and other members of the international staff saw 8,376 patients. Teams from the ship visited other areas and provided medical assistance.

The ministry and the U.S. Embassy appear to be trying to pressure the legislature into approving the random visits for shore leave and other reasons of U.S. ships on drug patrol. But there is no indication that the legislature is feeling the pressure from the transparent public relations onslaught.

Meanwhile, the USS Boone will have to off load a sample of the cocaine cargo it confiscated Sunday and the five prisoners in international waters. The Boone is accompanied by the María Canela, the Puntarenas-based fishing boat that was carrying the drugs from Ecuadorian waters. Presumably the Costa Rican Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas can put a crew aboard to bring the boat to dock in Costa Rica.

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