What seemed like normal protocol – seeking the approval of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly for another group of Marines, with their support ships and planes, to monitor the country’s coastline for signs of drug traffickers – erupted into protests and angry comments as some Costa Ricans complained that their country’s sovereignty was being trampled upon.
The response caught the U.S. Embassy, which was amid its Independence Day celebration, by surprise.
“We are not sure why there is this uproar,” U.S. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew said, explaining that the request is the same one that has been submitted each year for the last 10 years under a bilateral agreement between the two countries. And the timing seemed rather odd, she added.
Costa Ricans will be the first to tell you that their once-peaceful country is suffering a problem of national security. A recently released study by polling company Unimer showed that Costa Ricans’ greatest fears involve issues relating to security and crime.And few disagree the problem has arrived mostly from the outside, much of it on the backs of drug-smuggling cartels that have found room to maneuver along Costa Rica’s lightly protected coastlines and borders.
“This (protest) seems to arise at a point where there is no question that there is a serious security challenge ahead for Costa Rica,” Andrew said. “In the last 10 years, the efforts of Costa Rica and the United States under the Joint Maritime Agreement have been responsible for the interception of 115,000 kilograms of cocaine and $24 million in laundered money off the coast of Costa Rica.”
For more on this story, see the July 9 print or digital edition of The Tico Times.