President Luis Guillermo Solís made it clear Tuesday that he supports joint anti-drug patrols with U.S. Coast Guard vessels and crews but does not support those with the U.S. Navy.
Solís was clarifying comments he had made earlier in his statement at a press conference forwarded by Casa Presidencial.
The issue of the joint patrol comes up frequently in the legislature because lawmakers have to give approval for the docking of U.S. vessels. Traditionally the political party of Solís, Acción Ciudadana, opposes the docking of foreign warships and only begrudgingly allows Coast Guard boats.
As Solís noted in his comments, the U.S. Coast Guard is not exactly a military branch. It is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also said that the joint patrol agreement with the United States only covers the U.S. Coast Guard. Both U.S. Coast Guard vessels and U.S. Navy vessels are seeking drug smugglers off both coats.
Eric Turner, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy here, noted that the only pending request to allow U.S. boats to dock has been before the Assembly since last December and would only cover the rest of the month of June, if approved.
Turner called it business as usual. However, as part of the agreement, U.S. crews are obligated to turn over any Costa Ricans caught at sea with drugs to authorities here.
At the legislature Tuesday, Antonio Alvarez Desanti urged his fellow lawmakrs to approve the docking of U.S. boats until Dec. 31. There are two measures pending.
“Should a U.S. Navy vessel be involved in an interdiction involving a Costa Rican boat or crew, we would either seek permission for that vessel to enter on a case-by-case basis or arrange an at-sea transfer,” said the embassy’s Turner. It is less efficient that way, but something we have done in the past.”
Still the comments by Solís call into question the future of the entire agreement for joint patrols against drug trafficking.