Costa Rica moves toward invasion of the U.S.

A tongue-in-cheek look at what might transpire if the shoe were on the other foot

By Paul Waldman

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA, 15 SEP. 02 --The government of Costa Rica is beginning preparations for a possible invasion of the United States, Costa Rican officials have said.

In a speech to a group of business leaders in San Jose on Thursday, Costa Rican foreign minister Roberto Tovar said that the government of George W. Bush constitutes a "continuing threat that will only worsen," making military action a requirement.

"It is better to act now than to wait until bombs are raining down on San Jose," Tovar said. "Costa Rica has a stronger democracy than any other country in Latin America. As such, we realise the threat we pose to the Bush regime. For all we know, they could attack at any moment."

Tovar and Costa Rican president Abel Pacheco have been working to convince their country that they ignore the danger at their peril.

"George W. Bush has massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological," Pacheco said in a recent speech. "Nothing he has done indicates he would have the slightest hesitation to use them against his neighbours." Pacheco cited the numerous instances in which the U.S. government has initiated overt or covert military action against its neighbours, listing Panama, Grenada and Nicaragua, among others.

Costa Rica also announced it would seek a U.N. resolution officially identifying the U.S. under Bush as a "rogue state," given its support for military dictatorships, its role as the world's leading arms trader, and Bush's recently announced doctrine of "pre-emption", under which the U.S. will attack any nation with whom it has a disagreement.

While acknowledging that the U.S. would inevitably use its Security Council veto to scuttle such a move, a foreign ministry spokesperson said it was important to have the nations of the world on record in support of Costa Rica before any military action is taken. Nonetheless, Pacheco has said that if the decision is made to invade the U.S., Costa Rica would proceed -- with or without the support of its allies and the world community.

The Costa Rican president also cited recent domestic moves by the Bush administration and Bush's human rights record as causes for concern.

"Bush executed more prisoners than any governor in modern U.S. history and has clamped down on human rights since he assumed the presidency," Pacheco said. "While the United States has a proud tradition of democracy, Bush's eagerness to undermine constitutional protections and the separation of powers makes us nervous. Once he has concentrated all power in the executive branch, who knows what he'll do."

Costa Rican television stations have been contributing to preparations for war by repeatedly showing a clip in which Bush is seen standing on a balcony, firing a rifle into the air. Although the clip is nearly two decades old, it airs as many as 20 times a day on state television, enchancing the image of Bush as a belligerent war monger, preparing to do harm to Costa Rica.

Costa Rican news magazine covers have also featured Bush in menacing close-ups under such titles as "War -- Before it's too late?" and "Who's afraid of the big bad Bush?"

Nonetheless, Costa Ricans are far from unified on the need to invade the United States.

"We all know that Bush is a brutal dictator," said Sonia Picado, leader of the opposition National Liberation Party (PLN). "But how many Costa Ricans need to die to get rid of this one man? Unless he makes an explicit move against us, it's better to use international pressure to keep him in his box."

Picado questioned the rationale for moving against Bush now: "One thing we know about Bush, he values his own power above all else. So why would he risk it by attacking Costa Rica? And why is the threat suddenly greater than it was six months ago? a year ago? two years ago?"

Picado also raised the possibility of the tens of thousands of inevitable American casualties that would result from an invasion to depose Bush.

"To be honest," she added, "that argument doesn't mean very much here. Costa Ricans don't particularly care how many civilians get killed in a military action we undertake, particularly if they speak a different language than we do."

The outcome of the debate between Picado's PLN and Pacheco's Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) could determine whether the western hemisphere is engulfed in a war. PLN officials have charged that Pacheco is ratcheting up the war rhetoric to boost his sagging poll numbers as parliamentary elections approach, something Pacheco's aides vigorously deny.

"The president doesn't use polls to make his decisions," said political advisor Carlo Rovero, under whose direction the PUSC has spent over a million dollars on polls this year. "Anyone who would dare even imply such a thing must really hate his country."

For now, the Costa Rican government is continuing to plan for a move on Washington, which some say could come by year's end.