Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Global Article 9: US Military Buildup in Costa Rica Violates Its Peace Constitution

Global A9 - newsletter 31 (Aug. 31, 2010):

On July 1, 2010, Costa Rica's legislative assembly granted permission to US warships and military personnel to enter the country in the name of the war on drugs in the region.

The permission is based on a "Cooperation Agreement" between the two countries that expired in October 2009 and authorized US maritime patrols in Costa Rican waters to stop drugs from Panama and Colombia from going north - not the entry of US warships and military personnel onto Costa Rican soil.

Critics have qualified the decision as illegal, as Article 12 of the 1949 Costa Rican Constitution states that "military forces may only be organized under a continental agreement or for the national defense; in either case, they shall always be subordinate to the civil power: they may not deliberate or make statements or representations individually or collectively."

Opposition deputies have announced they will appeal the decision with the Constitutional Court. "The fundamental values of the Costa Rican State are stake, the core values that have distinguished this country- a country of peace, which rejects militarism, where we have a declaration of perpetual neutrality regarding conflicts of war in other countries and now we want to become complicit in a strategy of militarization is taking place in Latin America," said parliamentary leader José María Villalta. According to opposition deputy Luis Fishman, "we cannot support an illegal act, we won't allow the Constitution to be broken."

Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949 and since then has had no national military forces. Recently, the Supreme Court of Justice recognized a Right to Peace that imposes obligations on the State, notably prohibiting any war-related activities, such as the entry of goods and services intended to be used in war.

The move is part of a general US military buildup in Latin America, essentially justified on the grounds of combating drug trafficking. Though the agreement allows US military presence in Costa Rica until December 2010, observers expect it will not end at the end of the year.

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