US authorities have seized more than 2 tons of cocaine from a Costa Rican vessel in the Pacific, highlighting the increasing role played by the nation's criminal groups in the drug trade.
On June 28, a US patrol intercepted a boat carrying 2.3 tons of cocaine 112 kilometers south of Costa Rica's Cocos Island (Isla del Coco), which lies roughly 500 kilometers from the mainland. The vessel, which was registered in Costa Rica, was carrying 113 packages of cocaine weighing approximately 20 kilos each, reported La Nacion.
Three Costa Ricans and one Nicaraguan were arrested during the operation, reported EFE.
The seizure comes just weeks after three separate Costa Rican maritime operations resulted in the seizure of a total 4.1 tons of cocaine -- reportedly the largest in the country's history -- and the arrest of 11 Costa Rican nationals.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Costa Rican mainland has become an increasingly important drug transshipment point in recent years. Between 2011 and 2013 the country saw a significant increase in cocaine seizures, from 7.4 tons to approximately 17.5.
A number of foreign criminal organizations operate in Costa Rica, including Mexico's Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) and Sinaloa Cartel, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group. In a sign of Costa Rica's increasing importance in the drug trade, the number of international operations dismantled by Costa Rican authorities rose from seven to 16 between 2006 and 2010.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica
There are signs that local groups have increased their involvement in the drug trade in recent years, with at least 104 local drug trafficking organizations dismantled in 2010 compared to only 47 in 2006. In 2013, Costa Rican authorities arrested members of what was reportedly the country's first transnational drug trafficking organization.
According to the US State Department's 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Costa Rica lacks the resources to effectively combat transnational drug trafficking. In June, however, the country extended a bilateral agreement to conduct joint maritime surveillance patrols with the US Coast Guard until the end of the year.