Saturday, February 10, 2007

Daniel Ortega says that Costa Rica has a powerful army

By Uri Ridelman

On February 3 Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega suggested that Costa Rica has an army as powerful as the others in Central America.

"We have armies in all of Central America, including Costa Rica, which has a powerful military force that they call 'Civil Force', and because of that Nicaragua won't disarm," Ortega said.

Ortega also said that the Costa Rican Civil Force has a very big budget, a lot of resources and a lot of weapons.

Ortega's comments were in response to U.S. government requests that Managua destroy its arsenal of Soviet-era SAM-7 ground-to-air missiles. Ortega also accused the United States of providing offensive military technology to Honduras to be used against Nicaragua.

But Wahington said that Honduras is buying eight small planes from the U.S., which are to be used in the fight against drug trafficking and help in natural disasters, not offensive military aircraft.

Washington says the shoulder-fired missiles should be destroyed because they could be used by terrorists against airliners.

Nicaragua destroyed 1,000 missiles in 2004 out of the 2,000 donated by the Soviet Union when Ortega's Marxist government was fighting a 1980s civil war against U.S.-backed rebels. Ortega's predecessor, Enrique Bolanos, offered to destroy 651 more.

But Ortega, who won November's presidential election, said Nicaragua should still not drop its defenses while Honduras and El Salvador had much stronger air power.

Honduras and Nicaragua have a dispute over maritime limits in the Caribbean that is being heard at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Newswires from Reuters, Associated Press, and information from La Nacion newspaper was used in this article.

NOTE: For those who don't know Costa Rican history or still believe a word of what Ortega says let me tell you that Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948. Legally the abolition of the military was introduced in the Article 12 of the 1949 Constitution, which still is in force. We haven't had a civil war since 1948.

Uri R.

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