An agreement with the United States to create an InternationalLawEnforcementAcademy (ILEA) in Costa Rica has been virtually nullified after U.S. negotiators refused to accept various interpretive clauses proposed by the Legislative Assembly, legislative sources said.
Congressman Rolando Laclé, president of the Permanent Foreign Relations Committee, said the interpretive clauses would “close any possibilitywhatsoever that there could be any aspect of military character in this project.”
The project to create the controversial academy, which would have trained police officers from Costa Rica and other countries to combat problems such as weapons and drug trafficking, was denounced by opponents as a military training center that would not be in keeping with the civil tradition here (TT, Aug. 22, 2003).
“IT seems to me that since (Washington) has not accepted these interpretive policies, approval of the project has become very difficult,” said Laclé, a Social Christian Unity Party congressman.
In Latin American countries such as Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela and Chile, military personnel carry out duties normally reserved for civil police officers.
It was the intention of the United States that the ILEA in Costa Rica would train such personnel, a spokesman from the U.S. Embassy in San José told The Tico Times.
However, Costa Rican legislators demanded the right to exclude such officials from admittance to the academy – terms the United States could not accept, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Peter Brennan.
“I don’t think Costa Rica would like it very much if we told them who could attend and who couldn’t,” Brennan said.
“WE view it as a shame that Costa Rican legislators did not see this – have not seen this – as something in Costa Rica’s best interest,” he said. “We’ve been very transparent about the whole thing.”
Brennan said the ILEA would have afforded Costa Rica the opportunity to contribute to the fight against transnational crimes – some of the biggest problems Costa Rican law enforcement officers face.
Under the administration of former Costa Rican Presidents Jose Maria Figueres and Miguel Angel Rodríguez, Congress had backed the academy, Brennan said.
The current group of legislators, however, opposes military personnel of any kind being trained on Costa Rican soil.
“We always said we understood the project in the sense that no military personnel would be sent nor would this be an academy of that character; if the [U.S.] government has not accepted some of those clauses, it is not going to remain sufficiently clear, and as a consequence it is not going to have the support it could have had originally,” Laclé told the press last week.
Brennan said there would have been absolutely no military subject matter in the course, and no military personnel would have been instructors of any kind.
Brennan said Costa Rica has until April 30 to decide whether to approve the academy. If they do not respond by then, he said, Costa Rica will no longer be considered as a potential location.
“The ball is kind of in their court right now,” he said.
HE said the United States is already looking at other countries in the region that originally vied for the academy alongside Costa Rica, but said it is too early to say which candidates are most likely.
Costa Rica originally had been selected because of its “good state of rule of law” and “healthy respect for human rights,” Brennan said.
The academy would have been the fourth of its kind outside U.S. territory, following installations in Hungary, Thailand and Bostwana, according to the U.S. State Department’s Web site.
Public Security Minister Rogelio Ramos said the purpose of the academy was never to train any kind of military forces in the country, La Nación reported.