Officials from the U.S. Embassy, U.S. State Department, the Costa Rican Public Security Ministry and the police celebrated the beginning of construction of a $3 million facility for the Costa Rican coast guard that includes a command station, barracks, a floating pier, and a renovated marine maintenance facility. The Costa Rican Coast Guard plans to transfer its operations from Puntarenas to the Caldera station upon the base’s completion in January 2011.
Anne Andrew, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, noted in her speech in Caldera Tuesday that “the Coast Guard will now be better positioned to rescue mariners in distress, enforce fishing regulations, and safeguard Costa Rica’s rich marine ecosystems for future generations.” Over the past eight years, the U.S. government has donated high-speed boats to the Costa Rican Coast Guard, replaced or renovated existing patrol boats and created a communications node for information sharing. The U.S. has also provided training for Costa Rican police forces, having trained 102 officials in U.S. schools and 214 officials here in Costa Rica by bringing in experts from the United States.
Since its inception, Costa Rica’s 10-year-old Coast Guard has been working closely with the U.S. Costa Guard on everything from narcotics seizures to rescues of migrants at sea, as well as illegal fishing seizures and search-and-rescue missions. In 1999, the two countries signed the U.S.-Costa Rica Maritime Cooperation Agreement, the first of its kind in Central America. The U.S. Southern Command
(SOUTHCOM) website describes the agreement, known as the “Joint Patrol,” as an operation that aims to “increase intelligence sharing and coordination in counter-drug activities.”
SOUTHCOM, who is donating the funds, is responsible for contingency planning, operations and security cooperation for Latin America. Located in Miami, Florida, SOUTHCOM is a joint command comprised of more than 1,200 military and civilian personnel from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and several other federal agencies. It is one of 10 unified Combatant Commands (COCOMs) in the Department of Defense.
“The U.S. Coast Guard believes that two-thirds of the illegal drug traffic moving through the region does so on boats, including small coastal freighters, fishing vessels and the small swift vessels called ‘go-fasts,’” according to information on the SOUTHCOM website.