Costa Rican legislators have decided not to let a disagreement over the Joint Patrol agreement with the United States stand in the way of humanitarian aid.
In a 45-3 vote this week, the Legislative Assembly granted docking permission to the 800-meter navy ship USS Iwo Jima, scheduled to arrive in the Caribbean port of Limón in late August.
The ship will carry doctors, medical supplies, education material and teddy bears to impoverished families on the Caribbean coast.
“The support in services and supplies for our country is around $500,000; this is what we will receive with a ship of this type. The cost of the entire mission is greater than $3 million,” said Viviana Martín, legislator with the National Liberation Party, which holds a plurality of seats in the assembly. “This is a mission known as ‘continuing the promise of 2010.’ … (It is helping) in many countries, not just in Costa Rica, but in Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua and Panama.”
The legality of the Joint Patrol Agreement between Costa Rica and the United States, which allows U.S. naval vessels to enter Costa Rican waters to counter drug trafficking, is under review by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV). The agreement was signed in 1999 as a way to stem the flow of drugs northward.
Many also are questioning the efficacy of the agreement. The flow of drugs and related criminal activity only seem to have worsened in recent years, argue those who want to send U.S. troops home. Many of these critics argue that the U.S. should fight the battle to curb demand for drugs at home, rather than bring the war to Central America. Others in Costa Rica, however, point to this country’s small and poorly equipped security forces and see no alternative to accepting U.S. assistance in combating drug traffickers.
A final ruling by the constitutional court regarding the Joint Patrol agreement is expected in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, the U.S. Embassy to Costa Rica has invited Costa Ricans to see the USS Iwo Jima during its stay in Costa Rica. Details of the visit will be forthcoming.