San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Iraq War Support Still Questioned

ALMOST one year after the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) agreed to review an injunction brought against President Abel Pacheco for his decision to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the court has yet to rule on the matter, according to judicial sources.

Pacheco’s decision sparked massive protests and drew vehement opposition, as well as chastisement from Ombudsman José Manuel Echandi, who claimed the President violated 15 laws and international treaties ratified by Costa Rica (TT, April 4, 2003).

Pacheco had considered withdrawing support for the war last April, but major combat operations in Iraq ended just days before Pacheco was to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush, sparing the Costa Rican President the announcement (TT, April 25, 2003).

THAT was not the only time Pacheco demonstrated reluctance about his decision. In December of last year, after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Pacheco said he hoped the United States would leave Iraq soon (TT, Dec. 19, 2003).

“I hope the U.S. begins to think about evacuating and letting the Iraqis take over their own country,” Pacheco said.

“I hope (the capture of Saddam Hussein) is a way to close this chapter.”

While thousands participated in last year’s anti-war protests in San José, fewer than 10 people participated in a protest last Saturday commemorating the International Day Against War. According to analysts, the turnout is representative of current public activity in Costa Rica about the conflict. Luis Guillermo Solis, a political analyst at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), said Pacheco’s decision, while “deplorable,” has not had much of a lasting impact here.

“BECAUSE we are so far away, most of our political agenda issues are home, on a different track. So I don’t think there’s been a major or definitive impact of that decision in particular,” Solis said.

Still, he said, the country has suffered because of its support of the invasion, which he called an “unlawful, illegal action.” He said the invasion violated international law, and one of the main stays of Costa Rica’s foreign policy has always been respect for such laws.

“The government has severed one of its most important tenants of foreign policy,” he said.

Solís called Costa Rica a security “vacuum,” and said the country is no more vulnerable than the rest of the world as a result of the President’s decision to offer moral support for the war. The world over has become notably less secure in the past year, he said.

IF anything, according to Solis, the war has changed internal U.S. politics such that it could change the nature of Costa Rica’s relationship with that country.

Spain’s Prime Minister-elect, socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, recently pledged to withdraw troops from Iraq when he takes office. The devastating train bombing March 11 in Madrid that left more than 200 dead (TT, March 19), according to some analysts, showed that just as President Bush made nations that support terrorism open targets, terrorists have made any country that supported the United States’ presence in Iraq an open target.

Solís said Spain’s decision to withdraw troops should not be perceived as a terrorist victory, and the fact that some people are suggesting that “constitutes an insult to intelligence.” He said he hopes other countries follow suit and that the decision sparks a “larger degree of rationality” among the international community.

“I think it provides an exemplary attitude of a democratic government that feels there are other mechanisms to fight terror, and that being part of a coalition that has performed illegal military operations against other countries is not the best way to pursue it,” Solis told The Tico Times.

HUMAN rights activist Bruce Harris, director of Casa Alianza, an organization that works on issues pertaining to the rights of children in Latin America, said the war has weakened the international credibility of the United States in terms of human rights.

“How is it possible that a country that was supposedly built on human rights and that supposedly – at least according to them – defends human rights, has children 16 years of age locked up in GuantanamoBay (Cuba)? And God knows what’s happening to them,” Harris said, lamenting that “the world is silent” about the matter.

Harris was referring to the prison at the U.S. Naval Base in GuantanamoBay, which houses what the United States has termed “enemy combatants” in the war on terror.

ACCORDING to Amnesty International, prisoners from as many as 40 different nationalities are being held at the prison, none granted prisoner of war status – which would guarantee them certain rights under the Geneva-Hague Convention – and all denied access to legal counsel.

The human rights organization claims the prisoners are subject to being tried by a special U.S. Military court whose decisions cannot be appealed.

Harris also said the first U.S. Marine killed in action in Iraq, José Antonio Gutiérrez, had been a street orphan before moving to a Casa Alianza residence in Guatemala.

Gutiérrez, a 28-year-old lance corporal, was killed during an operation with the First Marine Division in Umm Qasar, in southern Iraq, on March 21 of last year (TT, March 28, 2003).


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