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Costa Rica: Congress Approves US Military Presence to Battle Drug Trafficking

Strong reactions have been spread among Costa Rican blogs and social networks because of a controversial decision that the Congress availed last week. Under the premise of counteracting drug trafficking, the Costa Rican government has endorsed the arrival of a North American fleet to its shores. According to the announcement [es], the fleet could contain 7,000 soldiers, 46 warships, 200 artillery helicopters and some modern combat airplanes, all of them properly tested during the Gulf War.

Cristian Cambronero quotes an excerpt of the released statement and comments on it in his blog Fusil de Chispas [es]

“El personal de los Estados Unidos en Costa Rica podrá disfrutar de libertad de movimiento y el derecho de realizar las actividades que considere necesarias en el desempeño de su misión”… ¡¿Cómo?! ¿Cómo [...] pasó esto? ¿Las actividades “que considere necesarias”? ¿A criterio de quién?

“US troops in Costa Rica will have the freedom to move about and the right to perform the needed activities to accomplish their mission” … What? How did this happen? The activities “they consider necessary?” under whose criteria?

He adds,

¿Eso es lo que quiere Costa Rica? ¿Es el camino que decidimos? El mismo que adoptó México, el de la militarización y el choque armado. Desde 2006, esa estrategia fallida ha costado la vida de unas 20mil personas, mil policías o soldados, 59 periodistas. Justo esta semana se supo que el 95% de esas muertes, ¡ni siquiera se investigan!

Is this what Costa Rica wants?  Is it the path we have chosen? The same model adopted by Mexico, militarization and armed confrontation.  A failed strategy that since 2006 has resulted in more than 20 thousand deceased people, one thousand police or soldiers, 59 journalists.  This week it was published that 95% of these deaths are not even investigated.

Alfonso Palacios of Kaos en la red [es] questions the real interests behind the authorization:

Porque lo que es Costa Rica, Panamá y Colombia están rendidas ante los intereses norteamericanos en muchos aspectos. Y ello es parte de una estrategia geopolítica y militar claramente observable. Somos los tres países el ombligo de América. Además,  y ya habían tomado otras medidas militares, como la reactivación de la flota que ahora circula por aguas internacionales alrededor de América Latina.

Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia are at the mercy of North American interests in many aspects.  This is part of a geopolitical and military strategy clearly noticed. The three countries are at the core of America.  Besides, they have taken in the past other similar military measures, like the reactivation of the navy that now circulates on international waters around Latin America.

Sathyr [es] wrote on his blog Cienpies [es]:

Nuestro país no es base militar de ningún país!!

Empezando por que no tenemos una propia, para que vamos a tener de otros países. (…) Esto es para mí una “invasión legal” por parte del gobierno de Estados Unidos.

Our country is not the military base of any country!!

For starters, we don’t have one of our own, why would we need a foreign one? (…) Personally, this is like a “legal invasion” by the Government of the United States.

As explained on Wikipedia: Costa Rica “constitutionally abolished its army permanently in 1949.”

The blog Conejitos Suicidas published a post questioning [es] these reactions:

He leído comentarios de gente que afirma que con la ayuda militar de los gringos, nuestro país se convertirá en el patio trasero de los yankis…yo les pregunto a estas personas si desean que entonces Costa Rica se convierta en el patio trasero de los carteles internacionales del narco, que de por si, ya nos tienen sitiados.

I've read comments from people that affirm that with the military help from the United States, our country will become the backyard of the yankees…I ask these people then if they want Costa Rica to become the backyard of the international drug cartels, which already have us besieged.

He goes on to say,

Mucho nos hemos quejado los ticos de la inseguridad en nuestro país, en la campaña pasada, fue uno de los temas clave. Con esta ayuda de los Estados Unidos, en algo se viene a ayudara paliar el problema y aun así más de uno se pone en varas. Despertemos, seamos realistas, nuestro país no está en capacidad de combatir el poderío de los grandes carteles de la droga; si otros vienen a poner el equipo y a exponer sus vidas en esta carajada, dejémoslos!

Y para terminar, a los opositores, más allá de mandarme a comer mierda por dar mi opinión, les invito a contestar la siguiente interrogante: Si mandamos al carajo a los gringos que vienen a ayudarnos a combatir el narco ¿qué soluciones proponen?

We have complaied a lot about the insecurity in our country, in the last campaign, it was one of the key issues. With this help from the United States, in some way it comes to aid in the problem and even then people reject it. Let's wake up, let's be realistic, our country is not capable of combating the power of the big drug cartels; if others come to provide their equipment and expose their lives for this, let's let them!

And to finish, to those who oppose this, more than telling me off for giving my opinion, I invite you to answer the following question: If we send the gringos home who come to help us combat drug trafficking, what solutions do you propose?

As he requested, many users responded to the blog post, like user Anonimo [es] who wrote:

Me parece muy acertado el punto de vista y lo comparto al 100%.

De verdad que los opositores a la medida y a la ayuda piensan que podemos contra el Narco, y eso no es cierto. Si no dejamos que nos ayuden Ciudad Juarez va a ser un parque de diversiones comparado a nuestro país donde la policia no podrá contra ese flagelo. Y no tenemos ejercito asi que mejor dejemos que ayuden porque sino la población honesta e indefensa es la que va a sufrir.

This point of view seems very accurate and I agree 100%.

Indeed, those who oppose the measure and the aid believe that we can fight against drug trafficking ourselves, and that's not true. If we do not allow them to help us Ciudad Juarez is going to be an amusement park compared to our country where the police cannot combat this scourge. And we don't have an army so we better let them help or else it is the honest and helpless people who are going to suffer.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla (@Laura_Ch) [es] twitted a message regarding the general disapproval:

No admitiremos la militarización de la lucha anti drogas. Minist. Tijerino y Comisionado Anti drogas aclarará lo del permiso legislativo.

We will not accept the militarization of the anti drug battle. Tijerino, Minister and Anti Drugs Commissioner, will clarify the legislative permit.

Twitter users reponded to this Tweet by the president:

@sabross:

@laura_ch necesitamos combatir el narcotrafico y las leyes no ayudan , aceptemos la ayuda!!!

@laura_ch we need to fight drug trafficking and laws don't help, let's accept the help [from the United States]!!!

@iViS666:

@Laura_Ch pues haga algo! Yo no tengo que ver caminar x mi país soldados de otras naciones con permiso p hacer lo q quieran.

@Laura_Ch then do something! I don't have to see soldiers from other nations walking in my country with the permission to do whatever they want.

@JuanLuisNY:

@Laura_Ch Dona Laura muchos costarricenses si estamos felices de la presencia del rmy para ayudar a combatir el narcotrafico.

@Laura_Ch Mrs. Laura many Costa Ricans are happy about the presence of the [US] army to help us fight drug trafficking.

A petition against the measure circulates on social networks [es], as well as an appeal on the grounds of unconstitutionality presented by citizen Yeudy Blanco [es]. There is also a Facebook group [es] rejecting the militarization of Costa Rica.

Thumbnail image by Flickr user #PACOM, used under a Creative Commons license.
  • Hugh

    The Costa Rican and US governments understand that there is a huge swath of ocean
    in the Pacific between Colombia/Panama/Costa Rica which is home to hundreds of inlets and islands that the drug cartels are utilizing to run their contraband. Colombia and Panama have stepped up their ocean patrols. But, once the drug running boats hit the high seas and work their way toward the Tico coast, there is nothing to stop them. It will take a big marine force to cover that much ocean. People that are opposed seem to think that 7,000+ troops are going to be on land. But in fact, the majority of the time they’ll be out to sea. The US military contingent wants to stop the drugs from reaching Costa Rica. Not fight a land based drug war (like Mexico) where the military is fighting a land campaign. Also folks…it’s for 6 months…see if it works. If not then the accord does not have to be renewed.

  • jdclarke

    Hugh, this agreement is not for 6 months, the agreement has been in place for the last 11 years. What was approved for 6 months, is the permit for these ships and troops to land in Costa Rica.

    See if it works? Well, would you say it is currently working, if 11 years later you still have to increase the amount of ships, their artillery and manpower?

    • hugh

      Jdclarke,

      I’m fully aware of the agreement that’s been in place for 11 years. I was referring to
      the permission that was granted for the troops, boats, choppers, etc., for a 6 month “trial” period.

      Is it currently working? No. But we (us Ticos) didn’t have 7,000+ troops, 50 boats, 200 choppers, etc., in US military resources at our disposal, and 6 months to make it work. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Colombian submarine that was found in Ecuador. You know the one that has the capability of diving up to 65 feet below the surface. The cartels have advanced technologies that Costa Rica cannot compete with. Most of the US marines will be based on the Pacific side out of Golfito and Puntarenas. Take a look at a map. It’s a straight line from the coast of Colombia to Costa Rica, and well off the coast of Panama.

      And like I said previously. The permission can be revisited again in 6 months.

      By the way Jdclarke. Do you live in Costa Rica?

      • jdclarke

        Of course I do live and was also born here. Were you?

        This discussion is moot if we can’t agree the war on drugs is a total failure. The cartels aren’t the direct enemy, violence is, and violence is caused by the black market. Remove the black market factor, and violence will be mostly gone.

        The US has to tackle their drug use problem, and not throw the conflict to producer countries, much less countries that are used just for trafficking.

        • ajason

          Let’s continue the logic above… now what propels the black market? Demand! As I see it, that’s not going away any time soon. How are you going to “remove the black market factor”? This problem seems like you’ve got to try to pull this thing out by the roots.. destroy supply lines, etc.

  • M. Crow

    Costa Rica, you will regret the day you allow the U.S. Military on your sacred shores. Look at their entire empire-building history, especially in Nicaragua. Never has it been for any country’s benefit but their own capitalistic gains. They are more likely to use your country as a staging area for combat somewhere in Central or South America (as the CIA has done in the past) where they have many enemies who see them as they really are before they will “help” you against drug cartels.
    If the U.S. wanted to fight drugs, they would send the military to the U.S. / Mexican border to stop them. No, instead they are suing the State Of Arizona to prevent it from cracking down on illegal drug and arms smuggling.
    I lived in Costa Rica for over five years and love your peaceful country. Please do not give it over to war-mongers.

  • geminga

    It is difficult for me to understand why CR would even entertain US military running around on their shores and in the towns. The US is the worlds evil empire. They do what is in their best interest not someone else, s. The country has lost its once firm since of moral direction and judgerment. Costa Rica is only a market to rich corporations…nothing more. I would look to another Latin neighbor to help,,,,,,,,

    • Robin

      I agree. We already know that the us military is often used to protect that trade as we have and are seeing in Colombia and Ahganistan.

    • ajason

      “Once firm since of moral direction and judgment”… umm, when would that have been. And if CR is only “a market to rich corporations” then what moral integrity are you suggesting CR has that it should defend. Also, if the U.S. shouldn’t be in CR, then why do you suggest it “look to another Latin neighbor to help.” Your argument seems a little in consistent and by the namecalling (“evil empire”), I would also suggest hypocritical. Everyone seems to be a villian in your post.. and I think activism often starts with understanding the intentions of the organization you oppose. That understanding seems to be lacking (amongst the activists) in this conversation. When you demonize everyone, no one tends to listen. For instance, if the need were recognized as being somewhat legitimate, then la Presidente and others should be encouraged to pass legislation that would limit the army on land (say it has no authority x meters on land). But the activist position seems to suggest no alternative to fight the cartels… other than pass it off to someone else. Btw, the reminds me of the debate about mines in CR. Grafitti states all around that we don’t want one single mine. But the same university hipsters that don’t want them go out and buy their ipods, computers, etc. (made with precious metals.. also found in mines). Activism should consider the intention, and negotiate with some sense of humility.. not the pride noted above.

    • Sandra Smith

      I strongly agree, The US always have primary, secondary, and tertiary gains when they decide to “help” another country. (Nothing is for nothing), I also think that the name you give to the US fits perfectly.

  • james

    Has anyone considered that the Costa Rican legislature has been pressured or bribed into this agreement? Where is the democratic spirit of the Ticos when such an atrocity is permitted?

  • Mary

    I think the US presence in Costa Rica may have more to do with labor unrest in Panama due to suppression of union activity there.
    http://www.insidecostarica.com/dailynews/2010/july/10/costarica10071004.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_massacre

    Supporting business owners to suppress labor is a very long trend in US government history, both at home and abroad.

    http://www.fas.org/man/smedley.htm

  • Sandra Smith

    Puerto Rico’s population said enough of the U.S. navy poluting their waters with their training in Viques. Now the US needs a place to continue their training and the perfect place is Costa Rica, because most of the population is so consumed with surviving and making ends meet that we don’t even know how our legislators are selling our country to the International Communities including the World Bank and the International Monetary fund that has created poverty around the world. especially the Caribbean and Latin America. On the other hand it does not require a rocket scientist to see what are going to be the long term effects of this “INVASION”, more poverty,especially in the East Coast which is where the black population lives and has been discriminated by the own Costarican Government financially. What about the U.S going to the root of the problem which is the drug in Colombia. or more concretely fight the drugs from getting to the consumers in the US By surveilling their borders. It is ironic that the U.S. whith such a great army It has not been able to stop the drug traffic into their country, but now they are coming to our poor country with the so called ” Help to stop the drug traffic in Costa Rica. As far as I can see nothing good is going to come out from this. unfortunelety it will be too late when Costarricans open their eyes to reality.

  • Mau

    the first thing that should eliminate the consumption of drugs, this is USA( biggest consumer)
    then the military troops that should work first before going in to other countries, typical U.S. government.
    USA has not enough internal problems?

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