Lawmakers let U.S. Coast Guard dock

The discussion took much of the Monday legislative session but lawmakers finally agreed 42 to 10 to allow U.S. Coast Guard vessels to dock and to let the crew have shore leave.

The approval, which was sought by the security ministry and the U.S. Embassy, does not include vessels of the U.S. Navy, which are considered too military to be allowed to dock in Costa Rica.

At the same time the lawmakers gave approval for the brief visit June 27 to 30 of a Peruvian navy missile frigate.

During the discussion, Otto Guevara Guth, a Movimiento Libertario lawmaker, pointed out that the U.S. Coast Guard is every bit a fighting force and referenced the service’s Web page that says as much. Still most lawmakers see a difference between the two U.S. services.

The Coast Guard and the Navy are on patrol in both the Pacific and Caribbean to counter drug smuggling. The permission to dock is from July 1 to Dec. 31. Such approval is required by the Costa Rican Constitution. Twice each year the request generates lengthy discussion in the legislative chamber. And sometimes U.S. warships have to transfer confiscated drugs and prisoners to boats of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas at sea.

Guevara noted that the visits by the vessels is good for Costa Rica because the U.S. government buys fuel, food and water as well as other provisions for the vessels. He did not mention the boon to bartenders when crews have shore leave.

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