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Nearly 1.5 metric tons of cocaine seized by joint US-Costa Rica drug patrols in the Pacific

Public Security Minister Celso Gamboa on Monday reported that joint patrols in recent weeks by the U.S. and Costa Rican coast guards have netted almost 1.5 metric tons of cocaine and led to the arrest of 11 suspects.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard turned over eight crew members captured on Dec. 10 while on a speedboat transporting 900 kilograms of cocaine. The arrest occurred 500 nautical miles from Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The suspects include four Costa Ricans, two Nicaraguans, one Ecuadorean and one Guatemalan.

All eight were given six-month preventive prison sentences while prosecutors ready international drug trafficking charges.

Gamboa also said that in the early hours of Friday morning, joint patrols led to the capture of three men on board another speedboat carrying 568 kilograms of cocaine. Two of the suspects are Colombians surnamed Valencia and Riascos. The other suspect did not carry identification.

Gamboa said that a U.S. aircraft at midnight on Thursday alerted the Costa Rican Coast Guard that they were following a speedboat that lacked a licence number or flag, about 70 miles south of Golfito. Costa Rica sent two intercepting boats, and at about 2 a.m. on Friday, officials nabbed the boat and its crew 33 nautical miles south of Golfito, near the Panama border.

Inside the 30-foot speedboat officers found 29 packages of cocaine, along with seven empty fuel barrels and provisions.

The suspects received four months preventive detention, while the boat and samples of the drugs were presented as evidence at the Prosecutors’ Office in Golfito.

“We are closing the year with record figures in the fight against drug trafficking,” Gamboa said Monday morning.

Last Tuesday – following an anti-drug operation at the Peñas Blancas border crossing – Gamboa said Costa Rica’s annual haul of cocaine was set to exceed 26 metric tons this year, breaking 2013’s record of 21.8 metric tons.

Joint Costa Rica-U.S. patrols will continue in 2015, following the renewal by lawmakers of docking permits last Tuesday.

L. Arias
L. Arias
Reporter | The Tico Times |

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