Of course, the tricky thing about having no army is that, well, you have no army! Costa Rica is proud of its pacific nature and the decision taken more than sixty years ago to abolish the armed forces and ensure that the type of coup dependent on an army that has been seen repeatedly in other Latin countries can’t occur here. However, as much as the national anthem may boast of Costa Rican citizens sharpening farm tools to use as weapons to defend their country from invaders as they admirably did to face the filibuster William Walker in the nineteenth century, times have changed since then and no one on the streets or in the fields appears to be sharpening a machete and getting ready for action!
Nicaragua’s decision to move troops into the Isla Calero, on the Caribbean border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica on the 28th of October , has left most Ticos –always patriotic- feeling impotent in the face of foreign invasion! President Chinchilla has sent 200 armed police officers to the area, but the Nicaraguan troops remain on supposed Costa Rican soil. Heated discussion in the chambers of the Organization of American States, led to the 22 of the 27 member states voting for the removal of troops and a carefully crafted list of suggested next steps from the OAS’ secretary, Jose Miguel Insulza, but Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega holds firm on his country’s right to this tiny and apparently useless piece of land. Nicaraguan politicians have also voted to continue the river dredging project that is opposed by Costa Rica.
Tico fury at this can be seen by the attack on the Nicaraguan Embassy in San Jose by a Molotov cocktail on the 12th of November, but Laura Chinchilla has been quick to reassure the large number of Nicaraguans living in the country that they shouldn’t fear reprisals. The government further proved its reluctance to act aggressively towards its neighboring nation by allowing a shipment of German trucks to be transported to their Nicaraguan destination after they landed at the Costa Rican port of Limon. While the government may be doing their best to maintain the country’s image of tolerance and peace; the average Tico on the street might not be so easily appeased. Tabloid media in Costa Rica are quick to paint a picture of the Nicaraguans living in the country as being violent thieves, who steal Costa Rican’s jobs and drain the health service. The racism held by many towards the immigrants who came here escaping brutal civil war or terrible poverty, is a potential time bomb.
A comical twist to the whole situation is the claim that Nicaragua decided to invade based on a Google map of the disputed zone, which shows the island within Nicaraguan territory. This is fiercely denied by Nicaraguan generals and Google have been quick to point out that their maps weren’t intended for military or governmental use!
Hopefully, the whole situation will be quickly and peacefully resolved.