Why are Marines disembarking in Costa Rica?

Why are Marines Disembarking in Costa Rica? español

Atilio Boron

Translation: Machetera

With votes secured from the official National Liberation Party (PLN), the Libertarian Movement, and Justo Orozco, the evangelical congressman from the Costa Rican Renovation party, on July 1st, the Costa Rican Congress authorized the entry into that country of 46 warships from the U.S. Navy, 200 helicopters and combat aircraft and 7,000 Marines.

A good shitbath for the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. That’s what the Marines use to teach democracy in Iraq. Now they are installing themselves in Costa Rica to do the same with Latin Americans.

While the various published stories do not allow a clear view of the decision’s origins, the limited evidence available seems to indicate that it was Washington who asked for the presence of the troops.  The extremely telling silence of the U.S. press on the subject and the absence of any kind of explicit reference to this authorization in the daily press bulletins of the State and Defense Departments feeds the suspicion that it was the White House that took the initiative that was favorably received by the Costa Rican Congress, and demanded the greatest discretion.

What was communicated to the Central American country was that the ruling situation in Mexico had forced the drug cartels to modify their traditional routes for approaching and entering the United States and that the deployment of a strong military force on the Central American isthmus was necessary to thwart this; a sine qua non condition for waging an effective battle against drug trafficking.  As might have been expected, the government of President Laura Chinchilla – tightly linked over the years with USAID, no less – lent her entire support and that of her congressmen in obedient response to Washington’s request.

Women in the Marines also teach democracy.

Nobody should be surprised when Washington resorts to the drug trafficking pretext, since it’s what Washington commonly uses when others are lacking, such as an earthquake in oh, say, Haiti – to justify the intrusion of U.S. military personnel in the countries of Our America.

Nevertheless, what works against the credibility of this argument is the fact that the countries where there is a strong U.S. military presence are precisely those that stand out for their increased production and commercialization of drugs.  As shown in “The Dark Side of Empire.  The Violation of Human Rights by the United States,” the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime – an unimpeachable source – has proven with abundant statistics that since U.S. troops were installed in Afghanistan, huge advances have been made in the production and exportation of opium as well as the fabrication of heroin, while in Colombia, the U.S. presence has not prevented (quite to the contrary) the registration of a notable expansion in the area destined to the cultivation of  coca.[1]

All this should not cause any surprise whatsoever, for a variety of reasons.  One of them is that the country that assumes the right to fight drug trafficking worldwide shows an incapacity as amazing as it is suspicious to do the same within its borders, from dismantling the networks that link narco-mafias with authorities, police and local and federal judges who facilitate the drug business, to implementing a minimally meaningful campaign to contain addiction and treat addicts.

It’s not that surprising, actually, since drug trafficking moves some at least $400 billion dollars annually, that are later conveniently “laundered” in the numerous tax havens that the main capitalist countries (starting with the United States and Europe) have established far and wide throughout the globe in order to be re-introduced later on into the official banking system and in this way, strengthen the business of financial capital.

For another thing, the weakness and inconsistency of this pretext – that of the “fight against drug trafficking,” becomes even more obvious when it is learned that the United States is the number one worldwide producer of marijuana, something that according to a study from the Drug Science Foundation, reaches a sum of more than $35 billion dollars in that country, a figure that surpasses the combined value of wheat and corn production.[2]

Third, and finally, control and administration of the drug trafficking business as a means to sustain imperialist domination in the Empire’s provincial reaches cannot be underestimated.  Wasn’t it Great Britain who re-introduced opium in China (a drug that had been prohibited by the Emperor Yongzheng due to the damage it had caused his people) the massive consumption of which allowed the British to balance their trade deficits with China? In order to push this addiction among the Chinese the British and the Portuguese waged two wars; one from 1839 to 1842, and another from 1856 to 1860, the result of which were the establishment of two beachheads for the organization of opium trafficking throughout China: one in Hong Kong, under British control, and the other in Macao, dominated by the Portuguese.

Why should we think that the United States, the putative offspring of the British Empire, would be motivated by any different interests when it pays lip service to the war on drugs?  Isn’t it perhaps useful to U.S. interests to have a Latin America characterized by a proliferation of “failed states,” – eaten away by the corruption generated by drug trafficking and the consequences that ensue: social disintegration, mafias, paramilitaries, etc. – that for this very reason are incapable of offering the least resistance to imperial designs?

The permission granted by the Costa Rican Congress lasts for six months, starting on July 1st of this year.  Nevertheless, this concession, that came about in the context of the Mérida Initiative (which includes Mexico and Central America) is a project that has goals but no deadlines, for which reason the probability is practically zero that the U.S. troops will leave Costa Rica at the end of this year and return to their home bases.

Furthermore, international experience shows that in Europe as well as Japan, the U.S. troops stationed there after the Second World War for just a few years, later extended through the pretext of the Cold War, managed to prolong their stay in those locations for 65 years without their chief officers showing the least sign of boredom or desire to return home.

In Okinawa, the widespread rejection of the local population against the Yankee occupants – who, sheltered by immunity were murdering, raping and robbing to their hearts content – was insufficient to force the dismantling of the U.S. base there.  Incidentally, this highlights the courage and effectiveness of President Rafael Correa’s government that did manage to achieve the ouster of U.S. troops from the Manta airbase.  And in case a popular outcry should arise over just this one occurrence in Costa Rica, a few criminal operations of the type that the CIA knows very well how to carry out should be enough for an instant reversal, above all with a government such as that of Laura Chinchilla, eager to prove its unconditional submission to imperial dictates.

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.

The Makin Island aircraft carrier (Hey, it’s just to fight drug trafficking, don’t automatically think the worst.)

This U.S. government initiative must be situated in the context of the growing militarization U.S. foreign policy, whose most important expressions in the Latin American framework have been, until now, the reactivation of the Fourth Fleet, the signing of the Obama-Uribe treaty, the de facto military occupation of Haiti, the construction of a wall of shame between Mexico and the United States, the coup d’etat in Honduras and the later legitimization of the electoral fraud that elevated Porfirio Lobo to the presidency, the concession of new military bases by the reactionary government of Panama, to which is now added the disembarkation of Marines in Costa Rica.  Of course, all these moves are articulated within the maintenance of the blockade and hounding of the Cuban Revolution, and the ongoing harassment of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.  On an international level, the disembarkation of U.S. Marines in Costa Rica should be interpreted within the framework of an imminent war against Iran and the grotesque provocation against North Korea, the serious consequences of which have been warned about for some time by Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz in his Reflections.

Therefore, the Empire is advancing in its militarization of the region and in preparation for a military adventure of global proportions.  If the aggression against Iran finally comes to pass, as predicted in recent days, the extremely serious international situation that will result will push the United States to try to guarantee, at all costs, seamless and absolute control over what its geopolitical strategists call the Great American Island, an enormous continent that extends from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, as separated from the Eurasian landmass as it is from Africa and which, according to them, plays a fundamental role in U.S. national security.

That is the fundamental reason for the preventive exorbitant militarization of U.S. foreign policy.  It’s ridiculous to try to convince our people that the twenty-odd military bases established in Central and South America and the Caribbean, to which we now add the disembarkation in Costa Rica and the activation of the Fourth Fleet, has drug trafficking as its objective.  As experience teaches us, drug trafficking cannot be fought with military strategy but with social policy.  And the United States does not apply it within its borders nor permit it to be applied outside, thanks to the enormous influence that the IMF and World Bank have over vulnerable and indebted countries.

The experience in Colombia and now in Mexico (with more than 26,000 dead since President Felipe Calderón declared his “war on drug trafficking” in December, 2006!) is a testament to the fact that the solution to the problem does not rest with Marines, aircraft carriers, submarines and gunship helicopters, but with the creation of a just and fair society, something that is incompatible with the logic of capitalism and repugnant to the fundamental interests of the Empire.

In summary: the disembarkation of the Marines in Costa Rica has as its objective the reinforcement of U.S. domination in the region, the toppling by a variety of methods of those governments considered to be “enemies” (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), weakening still more the vacillating and ambivalent “center-left” governments and reinforcing the rightwing that has made a resurgence along the Pacific Coast (Chile, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico).  It is a rearrangement of the Empire’s “back yard” in order to have free hands and a secured rearguard while the arrogant Empire wages war in other latitudes.


[1] Atilio A. Boron and Andrea Vlahusic, The Dark Side of Empire; the Violation of Human Rights by the United States (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Luxemburg, 2009), pg. 73.

[2] Ibid, The Dark Side of Empire, p. 72.

Argentinean sociologist and author Atilio Boron is a friend of Tlaxcala.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

13 responses to “Why are Marines disembarking in Costa Rica?

  1. Get it right, the gal at Abu Ghaib was a US Army Reservist and not a Marine. Get your story straight.

  2. What a ridiculous pack of lies! I don’t even know where to start! Marines roaming Costa Rica with “combat gear & weapons with total immunity”???? Do you really expect people to believe this nonsense? The American Marines and all American Military are held to a higher standard of behavior and have proven thousands of times over why they are the finest young men and women to ever serve. They are the most highly educated & trained. They will spend their “off hours” visiting and learning to appreciate this extraordinary country; bringing tourism dollars to areas that are badly in need. They will also certainly bring their families & friends to visit this wonderful country and later, perhaps even retire or buy a second home here.
    You will also find (as has been proven over and over) that US Military men and women give their time & efforts in support of humanitarian projects, such as local Medical Clinics, dental care, building schools and supporting those in need.
    Do us all a favor & go back to watching Star Wars movies. Your Paranoia and lies will not help anyone.

  3. You’re possibly correct–but so what? You’ve pointed to a difference that doesn’t make a difference in the thesis presented by the article.

  4. Doesn’t make a difference? I dare you to say that to a US Marine to his face.

    • Art: Can you please try to focus? The captions were translated from the Spanish original – usually if there is a glaring error, I will contact the author and make an attempt to correct it. In this case, I missed the distinction and frankly it doesn’t interest me all that much although I see that it is of extreme interest to you and possibly to a Marine or two.

      Gulfman never disputed the difference you point out, by the way, so your followup comment is senseless. If you have a substantive disagreement with the author’s thesis, feel free to state it. Nitpicking is utterly uninteresting to everyone.

      As early as 2004 the L.A. Times published an article about specific abuses committed by Marines in Iraq:
      Details of Marines Mistreating Prisoners in Iraq Are Revealed
      December 15, 2004|Richard A. Serrano, Times Staff Writer
      WASHINGTON — Marines in Iraq conducted mock executions of juvenile prisoners last year, burned and tortured other detainees with electrical shocks, and warned a Navy corpsman they would kill him if he treated any injured Iraqis, according to military documents made public Tuesday…more

  5. 1) Art’s correct; 2) Abu Ghraib was an Army op, not one of the Corps; 3) Military personnel have always been subject to criminal punishment when they’ve been guests in other countries, but they are also subject to prosecution by the Courts Martial. Depending upon the crime and penalty, the Military will work a deal with the local civil authority as to the disposition of the accused. While it is true that much of the time those personnel are turned over to the military without a trial, to think that they go unpunished is simply wishful thinking. The UCMJ has within it a very strict criminal code–much more strict than most of the countries these personnel visit; moreover, the rules of evidence in Courts Martial are considerably looser, and the punishment of the convicted more severe than what most civilian authorities will mete out. So please get the rest of the story before you go all Chicken Little on us. There is probably something going on down there that we need to know about, but speculation of this sort will only serve to de-legitimize your voice and anything you print to the American people.

  6. Excellent article. The historical perspective that debunks the given pretext of a US committment to “fight a war on drugs” is excellent. I have tried to write this before myself but not done as good a job.

    I live in Costa Rica. I came here to take care of my elderly mother. Costa Rica is widely seen by foreigners as some kind of tropical suburb of LA or Miami… to the detriment of the local culture and tradition. The social problems here – robbery, assault, crack addiction, alcoholism, marriage fraud scams, real estate scams… are all fueled by the influx of wealthy xenophobic neo-racist Northern Hemisphericentric “ex-pats’ with absolutely NO desire to do anything here but exploit the cheap labor, drive from Orange County mall to walled in million dollar golf course tract home colonies in brand new Prados and tinted window Hummers… dropping their kids off at expensive private English language schools where illegal Nicaraguan immigrants are hired as armed guards and gardeners…

    I see the presence of US Marines here as nothing short of the completion of the historic intention of the US to conquer this country… which it failed to do in 1857 when its 19th century version of a CIA “cutout” mercenary force under filibustero William Walker was driven out by a peasant army of Ticos…

    Sure… The US Armed Forces members are just A-List people — you’d want your daughter to marry one — sure, they’ll bring in lots of “tourist dollars”… have you seen the red-light districts here? There are are least three in the capital of San Jose, and the beach slum resort of Jaco is world famous… I am sure the Dominican/Colombian/Panamanian sex trade moguls will be real happy to see the jarheads “come” ashore…

  7. No, Veronica, your advice should be to read the Pentagon Papers not watch Star Wars. In the case of US global ambitions it is not paranoid to fear what the US is up to around the world e.g. DARPA is currently perfecting FALCON, a sub-space bomber capable of delivering weapons anywhere on Earth in a couple of hours. Read Prof. Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in SE Asia & understand the US is one of the biggest drug dealers on the planet.

  8. yankees go home!!!

    Irak: Crímenes de guerra: soldados de EEUU violan y matan a una niña

    http://blogs.20minutos.es/enguerra/2008/05/26/craamenes-guerra-soldados-eeuu-violan-y-matan-una-niaaa/

    “Sí, nosotros la cogimos, la violamos ¿y qué? ¿algún problema?
    Pues demándeme, aquí en Colombia no nos hacen nada.”

  9. Just to reiterate “Art’s” comment: Abu Ghraib’s atrocities were the product of U.S. Army (not Marine) management & oversight failures.

    This is not to excuse the Marines of their share of atrocities (Hamdaniya, Fallujah, Haditha, Abu Sifa, and thousands of others unnamed & uninvestigated) but it is important to have one’s facts straight in order to maintain credibility.

    • Okay. This is the last comment of this type that I’m going to approve on this post, because the issue is dead. The point has been made, repeatedly, that it was one branch of the U.S. military, not another, that was responsible for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and the photo caption is therefore incorrect. I find this about as interesting as knowing which Olsen twin was born first. I have approved [some of] these comments so that readers can make their own judgments and now I invite anyone who is still tormented by the question to take it up with the author directly. I must advise you that I doubt he will answer you because I imagine that for someone in Latin America, the distinction is seen as the kind of trivial obsessiveness that makes people in other countries shake their heads in disbelief when they look at USAmericans. If the main thesis of the article is incorrect or in-credible, I invite you to refute it. Otherwise, please go back to whatever it was you were doing before, like checking the locks on the door for the forty-fourth time since breakfast.

  10. “Congratulations, America. 10 years, 2 wars, 919,967 deaths, and $1,188,263,000,000 later, you managed to kill one person.”

    Afganistan War


    Rethink Afghanistan War : Civilian Casualties




    War In Iraq



    US Attitude

    same guy

    Whistelblowers in Jail

    They say its USA greatest day…Wake up people

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