Costa Rican police have seized 1.7 tons of cocaine from a boat on the country’s Caribbean coast, in another indicator of the the growing importance of this Central American nation as a drug transshipment point.
A go-fast boat was spotted by Air Surveillance Service officials who followed it until it ran aground near Manzanillo beach in the southern Caribbean department of Limon on March 12.
The boat was towed to nearby Puerto Limon, where authorities counted 69 packages of cocaine, each consisting of approximately 25 kilos, reported CR Hoy, worth a total of around US $10 million (5 billion Costa Rican colones).
Four suspects on the boat escaped into the jungle, suggesting they were being guided by someone with expert knowledge of the area, according to CR Hoy. According to the Tico Times, Anti-Drug Commissioner Mauricio Boraschi said preliminary investigations indicated they may be Colombian.
Authorities also found 27 gasoline containers, 10 of them filled, each with a 200 liter capacity, reported the AFP.
InSight Crime Analysis
Though one of the least violent countries in the region, Costa Rica, like its Central American counterparts, has become an increasingly important point in drug trafficking routes, with officials estimating that cocaine was trafficked from Costa Rica to 39 countries on four different continents during 2012. Costa Rica’s cocaine seizures from 2011 to 2012 nearly doubled, rising from 9.2 to 15.5 tons.
Including the latest seizure, authorities have discovered approximately five tons of cocaine this year, with earlier seizures including 775 kilos in late January and one ton of cocaine in late February, the first of which also occurred in Manzanillo. At five tons, less than three months into the year, it appears that total seizures may rise again in 2013.
The drug trade in Costa Rica is “growingly monopolized by” Mexican drug cartels and their Colombian business partners, according to a 2012 report by the Costa Rican Drugs Institute (ICD). Roughly 98 percent of all drug seizures are connected to the Sinaloa Cartel, according to the US State Department.
The ICD cited the southern border with Panama — near where the most recent seizure was made — as a particularly vulnerable point for the entry of drugs into the country. Despite the current government’s focus on improving security measures to combat drug trafficking, a lack of resources and bureaucratic problems continue to hinder efforts, according to the US State Department’s 2013 narcotics control report.
Increased drug trafficking through Costa Rica exemplifies a regional trend — the United States estimates that over 80 percent of cocaine trafficked to the US in 2012 passed through Central America.