Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1999 14:43:36 -0500 (CDT)
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US Invited to Install Regional Police Academy
By Nefer Munoz, IPS, 9 June 1999
SAN JOSE, Jun 9 (IPS) - The government of Costa Rica has expressed its interest in the installation here of a regional police academy, in which U.S. experts would provide drug enforcement training to police officers, judges and prosecutors from throughout the Americas.
Costa Rican Ambassador to Washington, Jaime Daremblum, underlined that the anti-drugs academy would be civilian rather than military in nature.
"Costa Rica's strong civilian tradition would grant great legitimacy to such an institution," Daremblum told the Costa Rican daily 'La Nacion'. Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948.
The U.S. Congress is currently studying a bill for the creation of a regional police academy, whose instructors would be officials of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), an inter- ministerial body comprised of experts from the U.S. departments of state, the treasury and justice.
Deputy minister of the presidency Rogelio Ramos, who is in charge of designing Costa Rica's anti-drug policies, said the negotiations for the academy were moving right along, despite a clause in the bill stipulating that the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico was to be given priority for the installation of the academy.
But reactions to the proposal have been mixed.
"We are not opposed to the fight against drugs, but to the possible installation of a military base in our country," parliamentary Deputy Vladimir de la Cruz of the opposition Democratic Force Party told IPS.
De la Cruz maintains that Washington is interested in installing a military base in Santa Rosa de Limon, in a jungle area along Costa Rica's Caribbean coastline, where army troops and officers from throughout Latin America would receive training.
He suggested that the government of President Miguel Angel Rodriguez felt even more pressure from the United States since last week's publication by the Washington Post of a report implicating prominent Mexican national Carlos Hank in the drug trade.
De la Cruz pointed out that in May 1997, Rodriguez - while still a presidential candidate - met Hank in his home in Mexico, accompanied by former Costa Rican president Rafael Calderon.
"This could scare Rodriguez into yielding land to the United States for the installation of a military base," said the lawmaker.
But Ambassador Daremblum stressed that San Jose had made it clear to the U.S. government that it did not want a military base in Costa Rican territory. y With the approach of the Dec 31 deadline by which the United States is to hand over administration of the Panama canal and the military bases and other installations located in the canal zone to the Panamanian government, Washington has been seeking a "new home" for its bases.
The government of Ecuador has agreed to a proposal for the installation of a U.S. base in its territory, and the Netherlands has offered to house bases on the islands of Aruba and Curacao, just north of Venezuela.
Venezuela, however, warned that it would not allow U.S. overflights of its territory, essential for fluent communications between the projected bases in Ecuador and the Netherlands Antilles.
Deputy Minister Ramos, meanwhile, said a delegation of U.S. officials visited Costa Rica last year to look over buildings where the anti-drug police academy could be set up.
"In today's internationalised world, it seems normal to me for Costa Rica to seek aid from the world's strongest nation in the fight against drugs. But while maintaining our sovereignty, of course," Deputy Jorge Luis Villanueva of the opposition National Liberation Party told IPS.
Villanueva added that as long as sovereignty was preserved, he believed it was appropriate for the government to offer its collaboration.
But ever since a bill was submitted in parliament for joint Costa Rican-U.S. drug enforcement actions, parliamentary deputies of the Democratic Force Party have insisted that Washington wants to establish a military base in this Central American nation.
The bill in question stipulated that the Costa Rican and U.S. coast guards were to jointly patrol the territorial waters of Costa Rica, as part of the fight against drug trafficking.
Although the draft law was approved by parliament on Apr 29, the constitutional court ruled last week that the entry of foreign vessels into national territory was unconstitutional. (END/IPS/tra-so/nms/dm/sw/99)
Origin: Montevideo/DRUGS-COSTA RICA/
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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