By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo August 19, 2016 To help prevent transnational organized-crime and drug-trafficking groups from using Costa Rica as a transit point for drugs, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) will donate two renovated Island-class oceanic patrol boats to the Costa Rican National Coast Guard Service. The donation, valued at $19 million, includes new communications and navigation equipment, ship renovation, weapons, and training on how to operate and maintain the vessels. After his meeting with Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís in San Jose, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), William Brownfield, announced the donation on June 22nd. “This is the largest collaboration ever between SOUTHCOM and Costa Rica,” Costa Rican Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata Vega told Diálogo. “The vessels that the Ministry of Public Security’s National Coast Guard Service will receive next year will be the largest that will be used to combat drug and human trafficking, human smuggling, illegal fishing, and environmental crime in Costa Rican waters, which had never before been monitored due to the lack of capacity of the country’s fleet up to now.” Long-time negotiations Negotiations between the Costa Rican Government and SOUTHCOM began two years ago during a visit from then SOUTHCOM Commander, General John F. Kelly, when the United States and Costa Rica agreed that reinforcing the Coast Guard’s capabilities would be mutually beneficial to both nations. The boats will be more than 34 meters long with a displacement of 168 metric tons and will have an overall length (LOA) of 33.53 meters, a maximum draft of 2.32 meters, and a beam of 6.40 meters. The patrol boats have been in active service for the U.S. Coast Guard since the 1980s. As part of the acquisition, they will be completely renovated and fitted with next-generation communication and navigation equipment. Once work is complete, they will have the operational range and maritime capacity to patrol Costa Rica’s extensive maritime territorial and exclusive economic zone waters. “Acquiring these ships has been the top security related priority for the U.S. Embassy country team in Costa Rica for the past two years. Placing these ships in the hands of a proactive and professional force like the Costa Rican Coast Guard will undoubtedly benefit the entire region,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel R. Fitch, deputy chief of the Office of Defense Representative in Costa Rica. “The realization of this donation is also a great example of what is possible when different agencies work together to accomplish one goal. In this case, the close collaboration between SOUTHCOM, INL, and the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security was critical. The U.S. Department of Defense is donating the boats, Foreign Military Financing is funding the communications suite, weapons, and training support, INL is funding the refurbishment and spare parts package, and the Ministry of Public Security is increasing the Coast Guard by 110 sailors to man and support the vessels as well as increasing the Coast Guard’s maintenance budget,” explained Lt. Col. Fitch to Diálogo. Costa Rican sovereignty To operate the new vessels, a total of 40 sailors will undergo six months of training at a naval academy in Baltimore, Maryland. When training is concluded, the Costa Rican officers will sail the ships [“Juan Rafael Mora Porras” and “General José María Cañas”] to Costa Rica. The ships, each with a crew of 18 people, will allow Costa Rica to increase its presence and control of territorial waters from 1,200 kilometers to more than 5,500 kilometers in the Pacific Ocean. Those maritime areas are currently patrolled by U.S. frigates within the framework of the Joint-Patrol Convention between the two countries. Signed in 1999, the convention allows for highly coordinated patrols, the provision of information and equipment, professional officer training, and rescue operations. “We don’t want to be given the fish. What we want is to be given the fishing line to be able to reel in organized-crime organizations,” Mata Vega said. “We will continue working jointly with U.S. authorities to identify, detain, and inspect suspicious vessels.” Regional collaboration The Costa Rican Government recognized the support of the United States as another piece of the puzzle to finalize the commitment and the actions being developed with regard to security. The U.S. Government, in turn, indicated that the transfer of the two vessels would not have been possible without a firm commitment of the Costa Rican Government to provide the National Coast Guard Service with the resources it needs to operate the patrol boats. “This is an excellent example of what we can accomplish when our governments invest jointly in security. Costa Rica can be very proud of having intercepted more drugs at sea than almost any other country in the region,” Brownfield reported during a June 22nd press conference at the Presidential House. According to the Ministry of Public Security, security forces confiscated more than 13 metric tons of cocaine between January 1st and August 1st this year. Meanwhile, more than 19,000 tons of cocaine were confiscated in 2015, and 134 international criminal organizations were dismantled, according to the Costa Rican Drug Institute. Transshipment route Costa Rica has become a bridge for criminal groups. Drug traffickers are using small go-fast boats that are difficult to detect. Many of those depart from Ecuadorian and Colombian ports in the Pacific Ocean, traverse Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, and continue on to Mexico and the United States through Cocos Island in Costa Rica. Drug traffickers usually unload and store cocaine in Costa Rica, with the intention of subsequently shipping the drugs to Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, and Europe. “The added range and capability of the ships will benefit the Costa Rican economy and environment by providing presence in Costa Rican waters where illegal fishing is prevalent. Moreover, the Coast Guard will disrupt established drug routes that pass through Costa Rican territorial waters, thereby protecting Costa Rican sovereignty and increasing collaboration with the Joint Interagency Task Force South.” explained Lt. Col. Fitch. In this context, SOUTHCOM has contributed to strengthening the maritime fleet and the installation of new police checkpoints on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica. In January 2015, the U.S. Government donated six Eduardoño boats to the Ministry of Public Security to patrol the border checkpoint of Delta, in the province of Limón. The donation included spare parts for the six boats, two transmission devices, and six propellers with a total value of more than $1.1 million. “Thanks to SOUTHCOM’s cooperation, the National Coast Guard System will have a new Coast Guard Station in the port city of Golfito, Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica starting in 2017. This project will cost $2.5 million because it includes two additional projects: a floating dock and a hangar,” Commissioner Martín Arias, director of the National Coast Guard Service, explained to Diálogo on April 14th. These donations, which are a key component of Costa Rica’s strategy for combatting criminal groups, also strengthen the cooperation and bonds of friendship between Costa Rica and SOUTHCOM. “SOUTHCOM identifies strongly with our nation’s cause, and that is rooted in several meetings we have had with SOUTHCOM’s high officials. We have cooperated more closely on defense matters, and we have tightened our bonds of friendship,” said Mata Vega. “Costa Rica has new announcements to make on this type of cooperation on the part of SOUTHCOM.” A hemispheric alliance is essential in the fight against crime. “We should be clear that no country will be able to win the fight against organized crime, criminal groups and terrorism on its own. It is important to establish alliances at the regional and international level where everyone acts as one in a number of areas so that we can continue working for the well-being of society,” concluded Mata Vega.
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error EL SEGUNDO — What can Lonzo Ball do to improve his shot? If you asked 10 different people, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.But it seems Ball went in search of his own answers to that question after shooting just 36 percent from the field last year, one of the worst guard efficiencies in the league. And watching Ball lately, the powers-that-be in the Lakers’ front office seem satisfied that he’s come a long way.“Man,” said Magic Johnson, pantomiming Ball’s adjustments Thursday afternoon, “it is beautiful.”Ball’s stroke has always been unconventional, and even in recently released team footage, it’s still odd-looking: The 20-year-old holds the ball further left than most right-handed shooters, and he flicks his wrist sideways from his set hand. Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe new motion has traces of the old motion, but cleaned up: The Lakers like that he sets more to the center than he used to, and General Manager Rob Pelinka thinks the release is a little less clunky.Pelinka, who used to have shooting contests with former Michigan teammate and 3-point ace Glen Rice, admitted he has talked to Ball a lot about shooting. But he insisted the team hasn’t pushed him to make huge changes in mechanics, only to find a more consistent, fluid stroke.“I feel like you can boil it down to release, the spin on the ball and arch,” Pelinka said. “So I had many conversations with Zo of, just get those things right where you feel fluid about it. He would take things in. The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now.“Before he was the No. 2 overall pick back in 2017, Ball had a transcendent one-and-done year at UCLA, during which he shot 41 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers hope he finds the touch he once had as a prospect, which could help him play more off the ball – a necessary role since he’ll be sharing the court with playmakers LeBron James and Rajon Rondo next season. Pelinka said he thinks Ball could be valuable as a catch-and-shoot player in those instances, as long as the shot continues to improve. Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.It’s not the only thing Ball has worked on, of course: Johnson cited Ball’s rapt attention for film study, including a handful of sessions with Magic himself. While he spent the summer recovering from knee surgery, he was often in the team’s weight room, watching his teammates play scrimmages on the court feet away. Johnson thinks the development of other young players, especially Kyle Kuzma, could be a motivating force for Ball.Johnson, the president of basketball operations, famously said last summer he expected Ball’s jersey to hang from the rafters one day. He was more tempered Thursday when evaluating the second-year point guard, but still confident.“I am excited for Lonzo,” he said, “and he is going to be fine.”OFF-CENTERMore than a few people have noticed the Lakers seem precariously thin close to the basket.While the team’s wing options are robust, the only center with significant NBA experience on the roster is JaVale McGee, a 10-year vet who averaged less than 10 minutes per game the past two seasons for the Golden State Warriors. While Croatian big man Ivica Zubac is also a traditional center, the roster structure has fueled speculation that other forwards (including LeBron James) might play more small-ball center.Johnson and Pelinka didn’t seem to sense a weakness: In an era when the “positionless” basketball the Warriors often play is a goal for many teams, a traditional big man takes on less importance, Johnson suggested.“You know the game has gone to (smaller play),” he said. “There’s not a true center playing backup, and we’ve got one of the best going to be there.”McGee, a long-limbed shot-blocker, hasn’t averaged double-digit points since 2012. But defensively, he’s expected to make a difference, and the Lakers think he’s gained character from his runs with the Warriors.Outside of McGee, Pelinka said the front office wanted to design the roster with “thrust”: a variety of players who could attack and pounce the length of the court to pressure opponents. Just because the Lakers don’t have a ton of big man experience doesn’t mean they lack length. Pelinka also pointed out the team has seven players who are 6-foot-9 or taller (even though some of those players are guards).“As the game is moving to be more positionless, we really don’t talk about center or point guard,” he said. “It is a positionless game and we have a long roster with adequate size for sure.”ROSTER SPOT REMAINS OPENIt was notable that Pelinka said Thursday he feels the Lakers’ roster is especially deep from “one to 14.” Because there’s a 15th spot that so far is unfilled.Related Articles Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Expect that spot to remain empty for at least a little while longer. Even as training camp begins Tuesday, the Lakers want to keep a spot open. It could serve as spot help for a need identified in camp, Pelinka said, or if the team gets into a trade discussion, they could receive two players for one.The Lakers want to keep their options on the table.“We do want to have that flexibility, and we just want to keep it open because the team is so deep,” he said. “We don’t have any current needs right now.”