The patrol agreement combined with the United States and the newly launched Southern Bloc of nations were decisive factors.
Costa Rican security forces carried out a maritime and land operation in mid-April 2018, which allowed the seizure of more than 800 kilograms of cocaine. The maneuvers of the National Coast Guard Service (SNG) and the Costa Rican Air Surveillance Service (SVA) were supported by intelligence information provided by Colombian security authorities.
The operation, which lasted almost 12 hours, took place in a sector of the Pacific Ocean off the Osa Peninsula, in the far south of Costa Rica, when Costa Rican authorities received information about a vessel that had sailed from Colombia in the direction of Costa Rica. The drug, distributed in 35 packages, was located on April 14, 2018, on a beach in Osa.
The seizure was added to other recent exercises developed by the SNG, including a coup between February 14 and 20, 2018 in two maritime interventions, where more than two tons of cocaine were confiscated. Costa Rican security authorities described the seizure as the first large-scale blow to international drug trafficking in 2018.
The first confiscation reached 1256 kg, while the second was 1044 kg. The two police tasks of the SNG had the support of the security forces of the United States, within the framework of the bilateral agreement of combined patrolling, and of the partners of the newly constituted Southern Block, between Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama.
“Both operations were carried out successfully, supported by intelligence information that allowed us to know in each case the south-north route followed by the respective vessels,” Commissioner Martín Arias, director of SNG, told Diálogo. “The cooperation of the United States allowed the data to be transferred in a timely manner to the ship of the US Coast Guard. UU., That was located in a point in the route and facilitated that they were intercepted. They are data not to analyze, but to respond immediately. ”
82 percent of cocaine production going to North America passes its cargoes through the Pacific. In this case, the specific fate of the two intercepted ships is unknown. “The countries of departure can be Colombia or Ecuador, the countries of destination can be Costa Rica, Guatemala or Mexico,” said Commissioner Arias.
“The intelligence information originates in a joint operations centre in the United States and Latin American countries,” Arias added. “It is a combined task force involving various US agencies such as the Coast Guard, the Navy and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. UU., In collaboration with authorities from Latin American friendly countries. ”
The South Block, key coordination instrument
The South Block, promoted by Costa Rica, is made up of four countries with extensive territorial seas in the Pacific Ocean. Altogether, the sovereign waters of the four Latin American nations cover an approximate area of 2.2 million square kilometres. The region hosts abundant ecological wealth; 78 protected coastal marine areas, 92 percent of the entire Pacific coral reef, and several islands declared World Heritage Sites. Due to its extension, it is used by narcotics traffickers for the illegal transfer of people, and by illegal fishing boats.
“The Southern Bloc, as a coordination mechanism in the area of multinational security, has a decisive impact on tasks such as the two maritime operations,” Costa Rican Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata told Diálogo. “The effectiveness of the joint actions of the four countries, with the assistance of the United States, under the umbrella of bilateral agreements of joint patrol, already attract the attention of other nations in the area.”
Such is the case of Nicaragua, which “informally expressed its interest in joining the bloc,” Mata said. “But I hope that the Central American countries, in general, will join the initiative, because the problem of drug trafficking is a regional problem, and it has to be understood regionally,” he said.
Meanwhile, the SNG and the SVA continue to be alert, ready to react and start operations at any time that friendly countries request or share information. Costa Rica does not lower its guard against the threats of organized crime.