More on the US Military Presence Offshore and In Costa Rica – 2 Articles

Posted on July 19, 2010

1


July 17, 2010
by Atilio Boron
*Translation: Machetera*

 

Article excerpt.  For full article go to Machetera’s blog by clicking on the title above:

 

Just like the establishment of the Obama-Uribe treaty whereby Colombia
initially ceded the use of seven military bases to the United States, in
this case, the U.S. military personnel will enjoy complete immunity from
Costa Rican justice, and its members will be able to enter and leave Costa
Rica entirely at will, and move through the entire country dressed in their
uniforms, carrying their combat gear and weapons. With this decision Costa
Rican sovereignty is not only humiliated but reaches ridiculous limits for a
country that in 1948 abolished its armed forces and, thanks in large measure
to this, was able to develop an advanced social policy in the depressing
context of the Central American region, precisely because the oligarch’s
gendarme had been disarmed.

As far as arms go, the congressional authorization allows the entry of Coast
Guard and smaller vessels, but also others such as the latest generation of
aircraft carriers like *Makin Island*, launched in August of 2006 and with
the capacity to house 102 officers and 1,449 Marines, transport 42 CH-46
helicopters, five AV-8B Harrier aircraft and six Blackhawk helicopters.
Apart from this, the legislation that passed extends permission for ships
such as *USS Freedom*, launched in 2008, with anti-submarine capacity and
the ability to move in shallow waters. The permission also extends to other
boats, like catamarans, a hospital ship and various vehicles known for their
amphibian capacity to move on land as well as sea. Weapons and gear that
basically, have little or nothing to do with drug trafficking, even in the
unlikely case that this were the real desire of the Marines. It’s quite
obvious that they have another objective.

 

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 4,000 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.