QCOSTARICA – Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft used by U.S. and Colombian security forces have proven to be an important tool for law enforcement officials in Costa Rica to fight drug trafficking.
After receiving alerts from Colombian and U.S. security forces using the aircraft, the National Coast Guard Service (SNG) and Air Surveillance Service (SVA), seized 810 kilos of cocaine and one ton of marijuana in joint operations. The drugs were being transported in speedboats on January 14 and 19, respectively.
In both cases, Costa Rican security forces were alerted by P-3 aircraft about suspicious boats near the country’s coasts, according to Martín Arias, SNG director. The services immediately responded by deploying interceptor boats (SNG) and dispatching two aircraft (SVA).
The January 14 operation was carried out about 36 nautical miles off the coast of Quepos in the central Pacific, where Costa Rican security forces captured a 30-foot boat that was flying an Ecuadorean flag. The SNG captured two Costa Ricans and three Colombians and seized 841 kilos of cocaine from the boat, which was powered by two 75 HP engines.
On January 19, P-3 aircraft spotted another boat, coming from Jamaica, 130 nautical miles from Puerto Limón, off of Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast.
The SNG intercepted the boat about 20 miles from the coast, after the crew of the suspect vessel had thrown 38 bags and 16 packages containing marijuana into the ocean.
The SVA helped find the drugs, and SNG authorities retrieved the contraband. The Coast Guard arrested the five crew members, which included three Jamaicans, a Nicaraguan, and a Costa Rican. The Prosecutor’s Office charged each of them with international drug trafficking.
The importance of P-3 Orion aircraft
The two successful operations underscore the importance of the P-3 Orion aircraft, which is manufactured by the U.S. company Lockheed Martin, in Costa Rica’s fight against international drug trafficking.
The P-3 aircraft are equipped with sophisticated radar systems to detect boats and submarines, a crucial capability for Costa Rica, since most of the drug trafficking in the country occurs at sea and the country’s success in policing drug trafficking along the border.
“The Drug Control Police have border posts with officers and trained dogs, who detect more than 90 percent of the drug shipments transported overland to Nicaragua,” according to Paul Chaves, a Costa Rican security analyst. “This makes it difficult for them. The surest route for drug trafficking, and therefore, the most used, is by sea.”
Cooperation, a key component in countering drug trafficking
International cooperation is an important component of Costa Rica’s broad strategy to fight drug trafficking and the successes the country is having in doing so.
Costa Rica cooperates closely with Colombia and the United States in the fight against this regional scourge, and the recent seizures reflect the confidence that partner nations have in Costa Rican security forces.
“We are in a region where we have the same problem, at varying levels. The collaboration with Colombia, the U.S., and other countries with whom we have an agreement on the fight against drugs has been very important,” said Public Security Minister Celso Gamboa.
Costa Rica’s strategy paid off in 2014, when the country’s security forces seized 26 metric tons of cocaine and 7.8 tons of marijuana. Both are record amounts for one year, and solidify the cooperative efforts to rid its territory of drugs.
“Costa Rica has gained international trust as the largest confiscator of drugs in the region,” highlighted Gamboa.