Sunday, August 8, 2010
As Americans enjoy the dog days of summer, baseball, ice cream and vaguely prepare for the start of the new school year, under the leadership of President Obama, the U.S. Navy has dispatched the USS Makin Island, an enormous 42,800 ton amphibious assault aircraft carrier capable of carrying 3,200 sailors and Marines, to South American waters. The ship made visits to several ports of call including the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, the Chilean town of Valparaiso and the Peruvian capitol of Lima.
But the USS Makin Island could soon be deployed to Costa Rica — the small, Central American nation who prided itself on its pacifistic principles. In a region plagued by violence, Costa Rica has historically to stay above the fray, In fact, Costa Rica hasn’t had an Army since 1949. With a small population of just four million, it is seen as safer than its Central American neighbors and an attractive destination for tourists and many U.S. retirees.
So why would newly elected Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla invite the U.S. Navy to patrol its waters? Ostensibly, the American Navy will be deployed to help stem the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico into Costa Rica. U.S. ships would stay for at least six months to assist counter-narcotics operations by government officials. Costa Rica as a transit point for drugs coming from Colombia and Panama and without armed forces and with long coastlines and poorly guarded borders, Costa Rica is vulnerable to the machinations of technologically advanced drug cartels.
Costa Rican authorities say Mexican cartels have infiltrated their country. Recently, local police seized more than a ton of cocaine at a house outside the capital and detained two Mexicans with alleged ties to a Juarez cartel. Meanwhile, the Costa Rican prison system has been put under enormous strain as the inmate population has soared. With a spike in drug-related crime, the prisons have spilled over and become more violent.
The arrival of the U.S. Navy to Costa Rica have sparked widespread suspicions that the Obama administration is looking for a justification to remilitarize the Central American region. According to Truthout writer Nikolas Kozloff, an article written by Tom Hayden, a veteran activist and journalist claims that Obama met secretly with Venezuelan President Chávez during an April 2009 Summit of the Americas held in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Hayden’s source for the meeting is an unnamed Venezuelan official.
In Trinidad, Obama spoke famously of resetting U.S. relations with Latin America, but, in practice. the freshman American president seems unable or unwilling to alter Washington’s inherently militaristic approach to foreign policy. Obama’s military escalation in South America is by now well known, but what is less publicized is the startling remilitarization occurring to the north in Central America. A region that has seen the election of more progressive governments to power in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. This trend has created a certain degree of friction as Central American nations have sought to ally themselves with Venezuela.
The Obama administration is looking for ways to bring these nations back into U.S. orbit, as has recently happened in Panama with the election of right-wing Ricardo Martinelli’s pro-military, anti-labor administration. Washington is looking for more allies to counterbalance Nicaragua and other reformist regimes, and Costa Rica, a peaceful nation which has sought to remain on the sidelines of the region’s past turmoil, now finds itself in something of a political quandary as the U.S. Navy deploys to its pristine shores.
To read more on the topic of Central America and the Obama administration, please click HERE.