Friday, March 21, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 7: The Victors Segment 4/14
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The neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s increased social discontent and labor tensions, Excelsior reports, evoking an "intense attack by unionists, popular organizations," and others against the Arias administration, which implemented these measures in conformity with U.S. demands and the priorities of privileged sectors. Church sources report that "the belt-tightening measures of the 1980s, which included the elimination of subsidies, low interest credit, price supports and government assistance programs, have driven many campesinos and small farmers off their land," leading to many protests. The Bishop of Limón issued a pastoral letter deploring the social deterioration and "worsening of the problems" to which "banana workers, in great majority immigrants from rural settings where they were property owners, have been subject." He also deplored the harsh labor code and government policies that enabled the growers to purge union leaders and otherwise undermine workers' rights, and the deforestation and pollution the companies have caused, with government support.16

Environmental degradation is serious here as well, including rapid deforestation and sedimentation that has severely effected virtually every major hydroelectric project. Environmental studies reveal that 42% of Costa Rica's soil shows signs of severe erosion. "Top soil is Costa Rica's largest export," the Vice-Minister of Natural Resources commented. Expanding production for export and logging have destroyed forests, particularly the cattle boom of the 1960s and 1970s promoted by the government, international banks and corporations, and the U.S. aid program, which also undermined food production for domestic needs, as elsewhere in Central America. Environmentalists blame government and business for "ecological illiteracy" -- more accurately, pursuit of profit without regard for externalities, as prescribed in the capitalist model.17

Submissiveness to these demands has yet to meet the exacting standards of the international guardians of business rights. The IMF suspended assistance to Costa Rica in February 1990, cancelling credits. U.S. aid is also falling, now that there is no longer any need to buy Costa Rica's cooperation in the anti-Sandinista jihad.18

Economic constraints and foreign pressures have narrowed the political system in the approved manner. In the 1990 elections, the two candidates had virtually identical (pro-business) programs, and were highly supportive of U.S. policies in the region. The Central Americanization of Costa Rica is also revealed by the increasing repression through the 1980s. From 1985, the Costa Rican Human Rights Commission (CODEHU) reported torture, arbitrary arrest, harassment of campesinos and workers, and other abuses by the security forces, including a dramatic rise in illegal detentions and arrests. It links the growing wave of abuses to the militarization of the police and security forces, some of whom have been trained in U.S. and Taiwanese military schools. These charges were supported further when an underground torture chamber was found in the building of the Costa Rican Special Police (OIJ), where prisoners were beaten and subjected to electric shock treatment, including torture of a pregnant woman who aborted and electric shock administered to a 13-year-old child to elicit a false confession. CODEHU alleges that 13 people have died in similar incidents since 1988. "Battered by charges of corruption and drug trafficking, the Arias administration receives another blow to its diminishing reputation as a bulwark of democracy" from these revelations, the Central America Report observed.19

Arias's image "is about to be tarnished" further, according to reports from San José that investigators of the Legislative Drug Commission discovered that he had received a check for $50,000 for his campaign fund from Ocean Hunter Seafood, but had put it in his personal bank account. This Miami-based company and its Costa Rican affiliate, Frigarificos de Puntarenas, were identified by U.S. Congressional investigators as a drug trafficking operation.20 I leave it to the reader to imagine the sardonic story in the New York Times if something similar were hinted about a minor Sandinista official, however flimsy the evidence.

According to official government figures, the security budget increased 15% in 1988 and 13% in 1989. The press has reported training of security officers in Fort Benning, Georgia, in U.S. bases in Panama, and in a Taiwanese military academy, as well as by Israeli secret police, the army of El Salvador, the Guatemalan army special forces, and others. Fifteen private paramilitary, vigilante, and security organizations have been identified, with extreme nationalist and right-wing agendas. A member of the special commission of the legislature set up to investigate these matters described the police as an "army in disguise...out of control." The executive secretary of Costa Rica's Human Rights Commission, Sylvia Porras, noted that "the psychological profile of the police has changed as a result of military training," adding that "we cannot talk any longer of a civilian police force. What we have now is a hidden army."21

Annual U.S. military aid in the 1980s shot up to about 18 times what it had been from 1946 through 1979. U.S. pressures to rebuild the security forces, reversing the Figueres reforms, have been widely regarded as a factor in the drift towards the Central American mode. The role of Oscar Arias has evoked a good deal of annoyance South of the border. After an Arias article in the New York Times piously calling on Panama to follow the Costa Rican model and abolish the army, the well-known Mexican writer Gregorio Selser published a review of some Costa Rican realities, beginning with the violent repression of a peaceful demonstration of landless campesinos in September 1986 by Arias's Civil Guard, with many serious injuries. The absence of an army in Costa Rica, he alleges, has become largely a matter of semantics; different words for the same things. He cites an Arias decree of August 5, 1987 -- just at the moment of the signing of the Esquipulas accords that brought Arias a Nobel Peace prize -- establishing a professional army in all but name, with the full array of ranks and structure; and a 1989 CODEHU report on the training of hundreds of men in military academies of the U.S. and its client states.22

Little of this has ever reached the United States, except far from the mainstream. In the context of the Drug War, however, some notice has been taken. An editorial in the Miami Herald on "Costa Rica's anguish" cites the comments by Sylvia Porras quoted above on the effects of U.S. military training, which has changed the "psychological profile" of the civilian police, turning them to "a camouflaged army." The judgment is not "hyperbole," the editorial concludes, attributing the rapid growth of the army and the recent killing of civilians by the security forces to the Nicaraguan conflict and the drug war -- but with no mention of U.S. pressures, following the norms of the Free Press.23

Go to the next segment.

16 Excelsior, March 24; LP, Feb. 15, 1990.

17 Karliner, op. cit.; CAR, March 16, 1990. See Douglas R. Shane, Hoofprints on the Forest: Cattle Ranching and the Destruction of Latin America's Tropical Forests (ISHI, 1986); Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, The Soft War (Grove, 1988); and for background, William H. Durham, Scarcity and Survival in Central America (Stanford, 1979).

18 CAR, March 16; Mesoamerica, March 1990.

19 Elections, CAR, Jan. 26, 1990. LP, Dec. 7; CAR, April 28, July 27; Excelsior, April 30; COHA Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Sept. 27, 1989. For several examples of repression in the late 1980s of the kind that aroused great fury when reported in Nicaragua, see Necessary Illusions, 249, 268; for a much worse case, see Culture of Terrorism, 243.

20 Mesoamerica, Sept. 1990.

21 "Costa Rica: Arming the country of peace," CAR, July 27, 1990.

22 Ibid. COHA, "News and Analysis," Aug. 18, 1988; Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Sept. 27, 1989. Selser, La Jornada (Mexico), Jan. 23, 1990, citing Arias's NYT Op-Ed on January 9.

23 Editorial, MH, July 31, 1990. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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