Anger in Costa Rica over deal to ‘invite’ 46 US warships in the war on Drugs
2010-07-12 0:00

By Daniel Tencer |

Costa Ricans suspect 'ulterior motive' in permitting large numbers of US troops

Opposition leaders in Costa Rica are up in arms over an agreement between the country and the United States that reportedly allows 46 US warships and 7,000 US Marines to enter the country as part of an anti-drug effort.

According to several Costa Rican news sources, the government there signed an agreement with the US last week to extend an 11-year-old cooperative program aimed at eradicating the maritime drug trade.

But opponents say this year's deal differs from previous ones in that it allows US warships to enter the country. Previously, opponents say, only US Coast Guard vessels were allowed to enter Costa Rican territory. The new agreement expires on December 31 of this year.

A committee of the People's Movement political party said the deal turns Costa Rica into a "US protectorate" and brings the country into "a new phase of military occupation," according to the Costa Rican newspaper El Pais.

Costa Rica's Nacion newspaper reported last week that the new agreement will see 7,000 US Marines, supported by 200 helicopters and 46 warships, "enter and leave the country at will." The paper also cited a June 2 letter from Costa Rica to the US declaring that US troops will have "the right to carry out the activities it deems necessary in carrying out its mission."

Inside Costa Rica reports that opposition leaders see the US military force as disproportionately large compared to the problem of Central American drug-running.

Luis Fishman, head of the Christian Social Unity Party, said the deal amounts to a "blank check" for US forces in Costa Rica. "We cannot support the illegal; we cannot allow our Constitution to be trampled," he said, as quoted by ICR.

Inside Costa Rica reports:

FA legislator José María Villalta questioned the conditions under which the permission was granted, since US personnel "will enjoy freedom of movement and the right to carry out the activities needed to fulfill their mission".

The FA also urged consideration of the geopolitical situation in which naval forces will be allowed to enter a region considered by Washington as part of its sphere of influence.

The legislator recalled that the US applies in the region a "strategy of complete dominance", which includes offensive actions such as the coup d'etat in Honduras and the installation of military bases in Colombia.

Writing at Inside Costa Rica, John Holtz says the fact that the deal allows such a large US troop presence, allows warships rather than Coast Guard vehicles, and expires rapidly at the end of this year, has made many Costa Ricans suspicious of the US and Costa Rican governments' motives.

"This story is not going away and for sure the pro–con arguments will grow exponentially as will the theories and hidden agenda accusations. A military presence of this magnitude on foreign soil with what amounts to be a 'blank check' is serious stuff and fodder for speculation," he writes.

The US State Department says the US-Costa Rica Maritime Cooperation Agreement, first signed in 1999, "facilitates cooperation between the Coast Guard of Costa Rica and the US Coast Guard."

It says the program "has resulted in a growing number of narcotics seizures, illegal migrant rescues, illegal fishing seizures, and search-and-rescue missions."


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