San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Coast Guard announces region’s biggest drug bust

In what is being called the biggest drug bust in Central American history, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted a Costa Rican fishing boat off the Pacific coast of Guatemala loaded with 3.5 metric tons (7,714 lbs) of cocaine.

Though the boat was detained Oct. 5, both countries remained silent about the arrest until after U.S. authorities turned the boat, the crew and the drugs over to Costa Rican officials, the daily La Nación reported. All were brought to the Pacific port town of Puntarenas Monday.

Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal told Channel 7 TV News that the drugs, which were hidden in the boat’s fish storage compartment, are worth an estimated $55 million.

The four men on board – three Costa Ricans and one Nicaraguan – were arrested and have been ordered to six months of preventive detention here while they face charges of international drug trafficking.

The captain of the boat was identified as Wínder Sánchez, age unavailable, and was accompanied by Édgar Campos, 36, Élmer Arias, 50, and Luis Vílchez, 33, the daily reported

The fishing boat, named Coopepez VI, was registered in the Pacific port city of Puntarenas, and was seized in a collaborative effort between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Costa Rican Drug Control Police. The two agencies have worked together since 1998 under a law that allows for joint patrolling of international waters.

This is the fourth Costa Rican fishing vessel busted transporting cocaine this year, and the third in less than four weeks.


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