With U.S. air help, Guardacostas intercepts suspected drug boat

Costa Rican coast guard crewmen intercepted an apparent drug boat off Punta Guiones, near Flamingo, Guanacaste, Tuesday afternoon and captured three suspects after a firefight.

The security ministry said that one of the crewmen on the boat suffered a bullet wound. The U.S. Embassy identified the boat as the “Don Carlos.” A statement said that the vessel had been spotted by a U.S. aircraft when the boat was some 30 miles offshore.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, the Policia de Control de Drogas and the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea responded. Officials said that the occupants of the boat began dumping packages into the sea. Some were retrieved. Others are expected to wash ashore on the northern Pacific coast. Local fishermen and others will be hunting for them today, as will the coast guard.
The coast guard boat was expected to arrive at the Guardacostas station near Flamingo about 11 p.m. So some of the information is tentative, said the ministry. It appears that there were 17 packages, each with 20 to 30 kilos of cocaine.

The crew members of the intercepted boat are believed to be Costa Rican.

The “Don Carlos” is believed to have rendezvoused with a fastboat off the Galapagos Islands. Security officials said they think that the capture suggests a new route for moving cocaine north. In the past, drug boats from Colombia and Ecuador would land in southern Costa Rica and the cargo would be shipped by land north. The boat captured Tuesday may have been trying to avoid Costa Rica altogether and land its shipment to Nicaragua or further north.

Costa Rican patrol boats are not heavily armed, and the exchange of fire probably was from rifles and pistols.

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