Guided missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46), From Wikimedia Commons

Guided missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46), From Wikimedia Commons

The saga of the Capitan Erson -a fishing vessel (FV) registered in Costa Rica- and a United States Navy frigate continues to unravel as contradictory news reports emerge. The latest report is credited to the United States Embassy in Costa Rica, and it negates a previous Twitter update on the situation.

A quick recap of the situation:

  • On Sunday, August 4th, The FV Capitan Erson was boarded by a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team (LEDET) assigned to the USS Rentz (FFG-46), the only guided missile frigate of the U.S. Navy assigned to drug interdiction operations in support of Operation Martillo, a multinational effort to combat drug trafficking in the Americas.
  • The LEDET found 963 kilograms of cocaine packaged in 80 bundles aboard the FV Capitan Erson; her crew was therefore arrested and transferred to the USS Rentz where they have spent the last two weeks in custody. One of the suspects is from Nicaragua, and the other two are from Costa Rica. They are all residents of Puntarenas.
  • The USS Rentz does not have legislative permit to dock in Puntarenas and deliver the suspects to prosecutors. At one point the MSP Director Mario Zamora mentioned that he hoped to get a speedy permit issued by the National Assembly, but that has not been the case.
  • This lack of legislative permit has prompted the MSP to coordinate the transfer of the suspects in international waters. A vessel from the National Coast Guard Service of Costa Rica will sail out to sea 13 nautical miles and meet the USS Rentz in the Pacific to ensure that the frigate does not enter Costa Rican waters in violation of maritime law. A magistrate and prosecutors must be present to witness the transfer of suspects.
  • Two official press releases by the Ministry of Public Safety (initials MSP in Spanish) have not mentioned the disposition of the cocaine hydrochloride powder seized. The U.S. Embassy has indicated that it was safely transferred to the USS Rentz, but plans to transfer it to Costa Rican authorities as evidence have not been mentioned.
  • The Costa Rica Star has published information on this incident based on the official MSP press releases, which are made available to the public on the MSP’s website, its Facebook Timeline and Twitter feed. One of the releases states that the USS Rentz took the FV Capitan Erson in tow and that it sunk. The U.S. Embassy categorically refuted the MSP release with a Twitter update, which the Costa Rica Star accepted as fact and moved to publish an update on the original article.
  • Now we have two reputable news publications, La Nacion and CRHoy, citing an official press release from the U.S. Embassy that confirm what the Embassy previously denied: That the USS Rentz took the FV Capitan Erson in tow and sunk after a little over two days in the midst of challenging weather conditions. In other words, the boat took on water while being towed. It is important to remember that the U.S. Embassy is an arm of the U.S. Department of State.

The Costa Rica Star has not seen the official press release from the U.S. Embassy mentioned by La Nacion and CRHoy. Unlike the MSP and other government agencies in Costa Rica, the U.S. Embassy does not seem to immediately publish every press release on its website or social networks. Instead, the press releases are distributed among different parties, which in this case included La Nacion and CRHoy.

This update is being published in the interest of transparency. Weeks ago, when a C-17 transport aircraft from the U.S. Air Force landed in Costa Rica to perform an airlift of nearly 40 tons of cocaine to Miami for destruction, news reports of the incident elicited many comments from people calling for greater transparency on such matters. Days later, the Judicial Investigations Organization (initials OIJ in Spanish) provided more information on the curious operation, and the report revealed that the C-17, like the USS Rentz, lacked legislative permit to enter Costa Rica.

As stated in our previous article on the USS Rentz and FV Capitan Erson affair:

“the people of Costa Rica, including many U.S. citizens, have a right to know about [these matters] in the interest of transparency.”

Article by Costa Rica Star

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