Saturday, August 07, 2010


Through much of the last century the country of Costa Rica stood as a beacon in the troubled region of Central America. Its early decision to refuse having any standing army and a succession of mildly social democratic governments insulated it against the 'thug politics' of military coups of much of the region. Its policies also guaranteed it a gradually increasing standard of living that was the envy of its neighbours and actually exceeded that of the communist dictatorship of Cuba. In sum Costa Rica was somewhat on its way to being the "Scandinavia of the South". In recent years this country has drawn away from its earlier wise policies, as the following article from the Anarkismo website lays bare. the original authors of the following are the Costa Rican anarchist group La Libertad, publishers of the (very) irregular anarchist magazine of the same name. Costa Rica is gradually abandoning its neutrality and anti-militarism in hopes of placating the Yankee giant to the north. The end result of this will not be increased prosperity but rather increased poverty and the end of freedom. Here's the story.
Costa Rica: No cheeks left to turn
Statement on the growing militarization of the Caribbean & Central America

Statement by the Colectivo La Libertad from Costa Rica on the increasing militarization of Central American-Caribbean area, the growing repression of the popular movement and of any form of social protest, and their position on the approval for the stationing of thousands of US Marines on Costa Rican territory.
No cheeks left to turn

Since early July this year, plantation workers, peasants and indigenous people of the province of Changuinola in Bocas de Toro (Panama), have been on strike to defend basic labour rights threatened by the so-called "Jailhouse Law" and "Sausage Law" passed by Martinelli's militaristic right-wing government.

More than 4,000 workers affiliated to the Confederación de Trabajadores de la República de Panamá and 700 workers from the Convergencia Sindical, demonstrated on 8 July against the cancellation of the right to strike, restrictions of the freedom of association, the criminalization of protest, punishable with prison, and the elimination of union dues, when they were brutally repressed by police forces whose violence and batons left at least seven people dead, over 100 hospitalized and about 30 arrested.

These actions sparked protests in every province and the convening, by a national meeting of leaders of popular organizations, syndicates and trade unions, of a national strike for Tuesday 13 July. The worker and peasant organizations, threatened with extinction after the establishment, by law, of a Trade Union Central loyal to the government, demanded the release of the imprisoned workers and investigation into political killings.

However, the violence of the State, the official pressure and the media circus have again, as so many times in the past in this region, permitted "negotiations" and gave birth to a "way out" of the conflict. But this case is yet another example of the ways in which today the capitalist system and the State commit murder in Central America; it is an example of the barbarism which the fascist right is capable of reaching in order to impose its plans for economic liberalization, the extraction of resources and the commodification of life.

This is a trend that has been developing for several years and has been taking shape under the aegis of militarist, neo-liberal States in the region, from Mexico and Honduras, through Costa Rica, to Panama and Colombia. There is no coincidence in the close relationship of the current president of Costa Rica with Martinelli's Panamanian government (which in its most vulgar form consists of Costa Rican police involvement in acts of repression across the border inside Panama), nor the role that this country has played in the international legitimization of the coup in Honduras and the unthinkable government of Porfirio Lobo.

Nor is it a coincidence that the home-grown military presence has increased in recent months, alongside the influence and military intervention of the USA. The permission to land more than 7,000 soldiers, 46 warships and 200 US Army helicopters by the ruling governmental, evangelical and freedom-killing alliance in the Costa Rican parliament, shows in all its harshness the absence of any national sovereignty in Costa Rica, and the clear willingness of the local oligarchy to follow the orders of the gringo government's geopolitical plans.

So the lie that every day we tell ourselves about this peaceful Costa Rica of ours and about our perpetual, sacrosanct neutrality is laid bare: the American soldiers will enjoy absolute immunity from Costa Rican justice, the Marines will be able to enter and leave the country at will and move throughout the country in uniform, carrying their weapons. Nobody is alarmed at the huge number of international reports of assaults, rapes and intimidation by US personnel against citizens of other occupied countries.

But do not think that this is new. The government's strategy of militarization could already be glimpsed in the exchange agreement with the Italian government to give the Costa Rican police military training in exchange for carbon credits for the European country. ( Think of this for a moment. Translated into realistic English this means that Costa Rica is trading "permission to pollute" to Italy via some mythical balancing act of its forests in exchange for "training to kill" from the Italians. One can only hope that the Italian military lives down to its historical reputation. Old joke..Q. What's the shortest book in the world. A.The list of Italian war heroes. )Not to mention the numerous occasions since 2007 when landings have been approved, similar to the above: 5 warships and 17 Coast Guard gunships 3 years ago, 13 warships with a crew of approximately 20 officers and 200 enlisted men each in 2009 (all with airplanes and helicopters), and many other aircraft landing permits for the US Coast Guard. All this supposedly in view of democratic security and the war on drugs.

The false war on drugs - whose main objectives are never the local and international mafia bosses, nor representatives of the narcopolitics of governments in the region - is just an illusion, a show of words to divert attention from the real interests: increasing US military presence in Central America and consolidating the hegemony of the neoliberal project. It comes as no surprise, then, that throughout the world those countries with the greatest US military presence are those with the largest increases in the production and marketing of drugs.

We are now seeing the consequences of these mechanisms almost daily: political repression, criminalization, the dismantling of the legal structure for rights, the criminalization of protest, media stigmatization of social struggle. This permanent war against the "other" (the immigrants, the criminal, the communist, gangs, but also the peasant, the indigenous, the poor), especially in its version known as the drug war, is actually, as we have said, a "war against the peoples" (see, "a war that does not reach the affluent North America", or is interested in seriously addressing a resolution of any conflict.

This so-called war is a systematic and calculated attack on the region. It is the explicit expression of implicit momentum: the control and dominion over the population and the resources. Business strategies serve to hide strategies for looting, cooperation initiatives serve to hide interests for control, regional security policies serve to hide policies for geopolitical domination. Examples of these forms are the free trade agreements, the Mérida Initiative ("Plan Mexico"), Plan Colombia, but also more specific signs such as the Obama-Uribe Treaty for the use of seven Colombian military bases by the United States, the recent reactivation of the Fourth Fleet, the coup d'état in Honduras, the military occupation of Haiti and the granting of new military bases in Panama.

In Central America, the rule of law begins only with its negation. Security begins only with its negation. Peace begins only with its negation. Our people live under assault from the law, unsafe, amidst constant violence. The only promise that the powers make us is that they will never tire of beating us, striking that "other cheek" that we tirelessly offer them. Thus, the only promise we can make to ourselves is to arm ourselves with dignity and ensure that no more cheeks are offered.

Colectivo La Libertad
San José, Costa Rica
July 2010

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