The Costa Rican Supreme Court last week agreed to take a case challenging the constitutionality of a US-Costa Rican agreement that would allow for a massive US military presence. The agreement cannot go into effect until the Supreme Court rules, thus postponing the arrival of US forces.
On July 1, Costa Rica’s unicameral Legislative Assembly, with 31 votes out of 57, approved the US Embassy’s request to open the country to 46 US warships, 7,000 US soldiers, 200 helicopters and two aircraft carriers. This permission was granted through at least Dec. 31 of this year, officially justified by the necessity of fighting drug-traffickers, providing humanitarian services and providing a place for US ships to dock and refuel. While most reports have put a Dec. 31 expiration date on the agreement, the Nicaraguan media last week reported that Costa Rican Foreign Minister Rene Castro, in a meeting with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos, said that the agreement is for five years.
Prior Joint Patrol bilateral agreements between the countries allowed only US Coast Guard presence with Costa Rican law enforcement aboard. The US Coast Guard was permitted to follow vessels into Costa Rican waters while in pursuit and awaiting Costa Rican officials. Thus, the new agreement represents a substantial increase in the allowance of US military presence in Costa Rica, a country that abolished its army in 1948 and has a policy of neutrality.