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For the last time: The US does not have an Army base in Costa Rica, embassy says

February 18, 2014

First it came from a glaringly inaccurate news report from Venezuela. Then it was caused by the United States Army itself. The rumor that the U.S. has an active Army base in non-militaristic Costa Rica just won’t seem to go away. But, according to both Costa Rican and U.S. officials, it should.

The latest round of speculation occurred Tuesday as someone on social media networks discovered and shared a U.S. Army recruiting website in Spanish and English that claimed the military branch had an operating base in Costa Rica. The link to the site spread like wildfire by Tuesday afternoon.

The website addresses parents of potential Army recruits, asking, “Where will my son or daughter be stationed in the Army?” It then lists Costa Rica as one of the foreign countries where soldiers could be sent. Other countries in the region include Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and “El Salvadore” (sic). The country information also appears on the English version of the webpage.

“It’s not a phony website, but in English, it’s saying if you’re on active duty you could be in one of these installations,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Eric Turner told The Tico Times. “We don’t have an Army base here, … and I think it got lost in translation. The way it’s presented, it’s confusing to look at. There is no military presence here other than in a diplomatic capacity.”

Turner added that, “We’re sensitive to how it looks and are reaching out to Army and pointing out the website as it’s currently writtten is causing some confusion.”

According to the embassy official, the U.S. Army has a total of two active soldiers in all of Costa Rica, and they are assigned to the embassy.

Still, Costa Rican officials are sensitive about the issue following a Feb. 2 report by Venezuela-based TV station Telesur that claimed the U.S. Southern Command had 46 warships, 200 armed helicopters, 6 Harrier aircraft, an aircraft carrier and 13,000 Marines in Costa Rica. Telesur quickly retracted the story after the Costa Rican government demanded an apology and accused the state-sponsored station of meddling in Costa Rica’s presidential elections.

Then, on Feb. 7, Bolivia’s Evo Morales added fuel to the fire by incorrectly claiming the U.S. had abolished Costa Rica’s army in 1948. Costa Rica fired back with a statement accusing Morales of interfering “in the internal affairs of Costa Rica.”

As to the U.S. Army website page, Costa Rican officials are mad about that, too.

“It has caused us a lot of damage, and I hope the situation is immediately rectified,” Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo told The Tico Times.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Costa Rica was listed only in a Spanish version of the website. Readers pointed out that the English version also lists Costa Rica as an outpost. 

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