US Military Surge in Costa Rica May Fan Regional Tensions
With the “War on Drugs” as Pretext, 46 Warships and 7,000 Troops Reported to Be Heading to Central American Country and Coast
By Jamie Way
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
July 14, 2010
In a controversial decision that is likely to fan the flames of regional tensions in Latin America, Costa Rica recently granted the US permission to move 7,000 troops and 46 warships (along with their accompanying planes and helicopters) into Costa Rican waters. Officially, the act is considered to be part of the “Drug War,” which appears to be increasingly more war-like in nature due to such actions and mounting violence in Mexico and Colombia. Costa Rica’s neighbors, however, see the massive military presence as a potential base for regional strikes.
Due to the long history of US intervention in Latin America (perhaps most notably in neighboring Nicaragua), the region is clearly justified in its concern over the disproportionate and virtual invasion of troops into an area that could potentially provide such a logistical and geographic striking point. Internally, many Costa Ricans are questioning the military presence and its impact on the nation’s sovereignty. One party, the United Social Christian Party, has even brought forth a claim questioning the constitutionality of such an act. The Citizen Action Party, the United Social Christian Party and its former presidential candidate, Luis Fishman, have been amongst the most vocal opponents of the US military presence. Fishman has compared the permission granted to handing the US a carte blanche, and has denounced the act as having negative repercussions for the nation’s sovereignty.
The US has responded by disregarding opposition. According to a Tico Times article, US Ambassador Anne Andrew responded by saying, “We are not sure why there is this uproar,” and furthermore stated that the request was the same as the one that had been submitted each year for the last decade under a bilateral agreement. Past agreements, opposition argues, however, appear to have only granted US vessels permission to enter the area in pursuit of suspects and do not seem to have mentioned troop or warship presence. Furthermore, the opposition argues that the massive military presence of 7,000 troops and 46 warships is a disproportionate and inappropriate measure for fighting narcotics trafficking and money laundering.
Regardless of how this act varies from past US actions, it is clear that within the present context, the military surge is more disconcerting. This action comes amidst increasing disappointment with the Obama administration and its failure to create mutual respect between the US and Latin America as many had hoped. In fact, to the contrary, through the shuffling and increase of military presence in the region, not only has the relationship with the US remained strained, but additionally regional tensions have flared. Due to the newly won access to seven bases in Colombia (said to replace the loss of a base in Ecuador), regional relations have been further strained. Tensions remain high between Colombia and many of the countries in the region led my left leaning leaders, who see the US military presence in the region as a direct threat to their democratic rule. In fact, the Colombian-US agreement even drew heavy criticism from President Lula of Brazil, who is widely known to be one of the regions most reasonable actors.
From its Southern border to South America, the US has increased its military presence. Most recently, the Obama administration sent 1,200 troops to the US-Mexico border, further militarizing this already violent area. This regional increase in military presence is also accompanied by an increase in military and police aid. According to a report by the Center for International Policy, the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, and the Washington Office on Latin America, during most of the 2000s, military and police aid accounted for less than 40 percent of all aid that the US sent to Latin America. However this year, before aid to Haiti is added to the equation, military and police aid will total approximately 47 percent of all US aid to the region. Perhaps most telling, after 58 years of inactivity, in 2008 the US government reactivated the 4th Fleet, the navy fleet in charge of the waters in the Southern Command.
Amidst a growing climate of US militarism and the militarization of its relations with Latin America, the region is justified in its apprehension over impending threats to its sovereignty. While the media speculates about war against Iran, US solidarity activists are concerned about the near to total media blackout of news about the escalation of US militarism in our own hemisphere. Whether all of this is a mere shifting of the pawns or an increase, this massive military presence in the region (paired with the US’s regional track record) necessitates careful vigilance if we are to address US military expansionism.
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