The USS Rentz arrived at the Pacific port of Caldera, Puntarenas, to turn over three Costa Rican suspects Thursday found off the coast of Panama with more than 1,000 lbs. of cocaine, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in San José.
The U.S. Coast Guard found 1,014 lbs. of cocaine hidden in the buoys of the Costa Rican fishing boat Papatéc some 80 miles south of Punta Burica, Panama, on Monday.
Unlike several recent incidents, the U.S. vessel was able to deliver the suspects and a sample of the seized cocaine as evidence without delay.
“The boat could quickly hand over the suspects and evidence to Costa Rican authorities to be tried and return to its mission in compliance with the law, without having to interrupt the busy legislative agenda, in a time when lawmakers are pressed to finish their important work before their recess,” said U.S. Chargé d’Affairs Gonzalo Gallegos in a statement.
Public Security Minister Mario Zamora had another job for the busy lawmakers before their Christmas break.
Zamora asked the Legislative Assembly Thursday to re-approve the joint U.S.-Costa Rican patrols, which are set to expire on Dec. 31, to avoid a gap in joint surveillance during the month of January 2014.
The minister noted that joint anti-drug patrols with the U.S. in Costa Rican waters between January through June of this year yielded five tons of cocaine and 2.5 tons of marijuana, according to a statement from the ministry.
In August, the USS Rentz could not deliver several suspects and evidence from a 2,000-lb. cocaine seizure off the coast of Ecuador because of inaction by lawmakers. After several days, Costa Rican law enforcement had to receive the prisoners and cargo in international waters.
Zamora referred to legislative inaction in this case as an “obstacle” to law enforcement.
In another instance, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Sherman canceled its scheduled July 2 docking when legislative approval lapsed.