Today, the US Navy Frigate USS RENTZ arrived in the port of Caldera to turn over to Costa Rican authorities three Costa Rican suspects detained in a fishing vessel that was transporting 460 kilograms of cocaine.

The RENTZ also turned over a sample of the seized drugs for use as evidence in the case against the men.

The handover ends U.S. involvement in the case, which started Monday when US Coast Guard vessel boarded the Costa Rican fishing boat Papatec in open waters off the coast of Panama, about 81 miles south of Punta Burica.  The drugs were discovered hidden in buoys on board.  The suspects, a captain named Vasquez-Munoz, and two crew members named Orozco-Lopez and Artavia-Abarca will face trial in Costa Rica, under the terms of the joint maritime agreement between the two countries.

The RENTZ was able to quickly bring the men to Costa Rica because the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly had given prior authorization for the ship to enter Costa Rican waters for this purpose.

“This is a perfect example of why the United States respectfully requests pre-approval from the Assembly for U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships to enter Costa Rican ports as part of our joint maritime patrols,” said Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Gonzalo Gallegos. “The ship was able to quickly deliver the suspects and evidence to Costa Rican authorities for processing and return to its law enforcement mission, without having to interrupt a busy legislative agenda as Deputies rush to complete their important work before taking their recess.”

Permission for these port visits will expire at the end of the year.  Requests for ships that will be patrolling from January to July are currently at the Assembly.  If lawmakers adjourn without approving them, U.S. vessels will have to suspend their full participation in the joint patrols starting on January 1, until lawmakers return and schedule a vote after the elections.

Source: US Embassy San José