Fear, Suspicion as US Military En Route to Costa Rica

by Joseph Shansky

Tensions are high in Costa Rica following the announcement of the impending arrival of United States military vessels. In the past year alone, a sudden expansion of US military presence around Latin America has alarmed many in the region. Now it is spreading to the one nation which had previously been known for the absence of any standing permanent army, foreign or national.

After receiving a diplomatic request from the US Embassy, on July 1 the Costa Rican legislative assembly approved a measure to grant unprecedented access to a US military fleet in Costa Rica’s waters. The vessels will arrive for at least six months to assist counter-narcotics operations by Costa Rican authorities. Costa Rica has long been used a stopping point of entry for drugs coming from Colombia and Panama on their way further north.

This type of partnership between the US and Costa Rica is not new. Since 1999, a maritime agreement titled the “Joint Patrol” has allowed the US Coast Guard to operate in the waters of Costa Rica for similar purposes. However, this particular agreement goes far beyond previously established boundaries. The Joint Patrol agreement limited US personnel to Coast Guard only, allowing for Costa Rican law enforcement to ride on US ships if they have reason to suspect suspicious activity, and vice versa.
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You Can’t Have Your Pineapple and Eat It Too

Manuel Noriega, nicknamed "Pineapple Face"

by Kurt Fernández

As former Panamanian dictator and CIA employee Manuel Noriega faces money laundering charges in France after spending nearly 20 years in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking, my mind wanders back to the mid-1970s, when I met the then-colonel at a New Year’s Eve party in Panama City.

The party was at the home of a wealthy Panamanian family that owned a cement company. My mother and father, the latter a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, had been invited on account of my mother’s charitable work with the Inter-American Women’s Club. My wife and I, visiting from Mexico, tagged along.

There was a live band playing salsa, an endless supply of Ron Cortez and Cerveza Panamá delivered by fast-moving waiters, and an abundance of prettily dressed debutantes and their dates dancing around a pool. In other words, the wealthiest families in Panama were hurting under the government of Noriega’s populist predecessor General Omar Torrijos.

Continue reading “You Can’t Have Your Pineapple and Eat It Too”