The law allows the Air Surveillance Service to periodically verify the aircraft runways in the country, including those on private property,
and the respective authorization for their use.  - Ministry of Security courtesy photo -


Published Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Congress passes a law to
disable clandestine airports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With 43 votes in favor, Congress approved bill No. 21,621, known as "The Act to Disable Unauthorized Landing Airports," in the first round of voting.

The bill, proposed by the deputy Zoila Volio-Pacheco allows the Security Ministry to detect and destroy or disable the clandestine landing strips that are used for the illegal transport of toxic drugs, narcotics or psychotropic substances.

The law allows the Air Surveillance Service to periodically verify the aircraft runways in the country, including those on private property, and the respective authorization for their use.

With the approval of the law, security organizations such as the Surveillance Service, the Judicial Investigation Organization, as well as municipalities, the National Intelligence and Security Directorate and park guards can carry out permanent surveys throughout the national territory, in strict compliance with the respect for the right to private property, to detect aircraft runaways that do not have the authorization of the Civil Aviation Directorate.

Deputy Melvin Núñez-Piña, who was one of the congressmen who voted in favor of the bill said that the law is of great importance to fighting against drug trafficking and organized crime.

The last reported case of an aircraft landing on a clandestine runway, transporting drugs, happened almost a year ago.

In September 2019, a judge of the Criminal Court of Puntarenas Province ordered pre-trial prison against four men suspected of international drug trafficking.

According to the judicial agent's report, the suspects are two Colombians surnamed Gutierrez-Navarrete and Amy-Cardona. In addition to two Costa Ricans surnamed Sánchez-Pérez and Zamora-Alvarado. The men were arrested when they were found in an abandoned property in Palmar Sur District in Puntarenas Province.

The case began when Civil Aviation officials received a report from Colombian authorities about a light aircraft that was entering the Costa Rican air zone.

"The light aircraft, plate number HK4567, had left Colombia illegally and allegedly it was transporting drugs," judicial agents said in its report.

In response to the alert, Drug Control Police officers went to the place where the light aircraft was expected to have landed. Then, officials reported seeing the aircraft flying at a low altitude in the same area of Palmar Sur.

"When the officers arrived, the suspects tried to evade the authorities," the police said in its report.

The officers tracked the suspects, who were digging a hole that would be used to hide an aircraft similar to the one seen flying over the area hours before.

During the second encounter, police officers managed to arrest three of the suspects, and hours later, the fourth suspect was arrested.

The suspects surnamed Amy and Gutierrez were traveling in the light aircraft, but, before arriving, the small plane had some type of mechanical damage. The situation forced the pilot to make a hard landing that ended in a crash, according to the judicial agent's report.

"The other suspects would have made a pit to bury the drugs, however, in the face of what happened, they tried to hide the entire aircraft in that pit," the prosecutor said in its report.

"Chemical tests on the detainees and the car came back positive for traces of drugs," judicial agents said.

The judicial agents call on the people to report any suspicion of illegal airstrips, drug transportation or sales to the confidential line 800-8000-645, where there are bilingual agents who can answer calls in English or Spanish.

What have you heard of clandestine airstrips in your community? 
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