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Cablegate: 128 Chinese and Peruvian Migrants Intercepted By

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #2316/01 2961410
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231410Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6379
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0120
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 0943
RUWDQAA/CCGDELEVEN ALAMEDA CA
RUWDQAC/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DIRJIATF SOUTH
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHQCCTB/USCGC BOUTWELL
RUEHPE/USDAO LIMA PE
RUEHSJ/USMILGP SAN JOSE CS

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 002316

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, AND INL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KCRM CS PE
SUBJECT: 128 CHINESE AND PERUVIAN MIGRANTS INTERCEPTED BY
COSTA RICAN COAST GUARD

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: October 11-18, in an international,
inter-agency operation involving the Costa Rican Coast
Guard (SNGC), the US Coast Guard, the Peruvian Air Force,
the GOCR's Directorate of Immigration (and MOTR Plan
participants in Washington), 128 Chinese and Peruvian
intending immigrants were rescued from their disabled
vessel near Isla del Coco and returned to Peru (their
departure point). The successful effort (over a Costa
Rican holiday weekend) required persistent
behind-the-scenes diplomacy and would have been impossible
without the assistance of the USCG Boutwell, but
underscored the utility of the U.S./Costa Rica Bilateral
Maritime
Agreement. More importantly, this good news story
highlighted what the GOCR is capable of, when its
limited resources are marshaled effectively. END SUMMARY.

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2. (SBU) Post received indications on October 11 that
approximately 140 (later confirmed as 128) intending
immigrants were stranded on a disabled 70-ft. fishing
vessel, possibly of Peruvian registry (also confirmed
later), and were adrift in Costa Rican territorial seas
near the Isla del Coco. This information was relayed to
the SNGC which immediately dispatched one of its three
82-ft. patrol vessels. The SNGC vessel made contact on
October 12 and verified that the passengers aboard the
vessel were intending to immigrate illegally to the U.S.
The migrants apparently had recently been abandoned by
their traffickers but had been adrift with little food or
water for many days. Since the SNGC vessel's 10-person
crew could not safely board the overcrowded fishing vessel,
SNGC Director Alvarado requested Embassy assistance and
dispatched a second 82-ft patrol boat.

3. (SBU) Post's Office of the Defense Representative (ODR)
worked closely with the SNGC and the Ministry of Public
Security to draft a request for assistance and to
coordinate the recovery operation. Once approved (by the
highest levels of the GOCR), the request was submitted on
late October 12, enabling the high-endurance cutter
Boutwell to be diverted from its routine counternarcotics
patrol to help. The Boutwell made contact with the SNGC
patrol boats, by then towing the disabled migrant vessel,
(the Peruvian fishing vessel NALU) in the early hours of
October 14. The crew of the Boutwell boarded the NALU and
transferred all 128 migrants (final count 71 Chinese, 57
Peruvians) to the custody of Costa Rican shipriders in
accordance with the terms of the U.S./Costa Rica Bilateral
Maritime
Agreement. The Boutwell provided fuel to the Costa Rican
patrol boats and a hot meal to the migrants, then departed
for the Costa Rican port of Caldera.

4. (SBU) Costa Rican Immigration and Red Cross officials
processed the migrants in Caldera later on October 14.
Offloading the migrants from the Boutwell took
approximately four hours and was accelerated by the
cutter's willingness to shuttle the migrants to the pier
using its own resources. The migrants were bussed to a
shelter in San Jose where they received fresh clothing and
minor medical attention as required. In an arrangement
worked out between the two governments, the Peruvian Air
Force sent two planes to San Jose to return the migrants to
Lima on October 17 and 18.

5. (SBU) Costa Rican Immigration Director Mario Zamora told
media on October 18 that the entire operation had cost the
GOCR approximately 523 million Colones (just over one million
USD). Other media reports mentioned the USCG's assistance,
but focused more on the SNGC's all hands effort, the dire
conditions about the NALU before the migrants were rescued
and the draconian terms of their transportation "contracts"
which would have made them virtual slaves to their
traffickers (Chinese Mafia) for years to come.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Although this operation put a great
strain on the GOCR's resources, we are largely pleased with
the way the Government met its international obligations.
Likewise, the SNGC pleasantly surprised us with its ability

to get two of three operational large patrol boats on the
scene within a reasonable amount of time (although they
still needed fuel from the Boutwell in order to return to
port). This event provided an excellent opportunity to
engage senior Arias Administration decision makers in
accordance with the terms of the Bilateral Maritime
Agreement and to identify and correct some communication
problems among those decision makers as they addressed an
urgent, real-world problem.
FRISBIE

© Scoop Media

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