14. THE U.S. PRESENCE THAT'S KILLING CENTRAL AMERICA
When the five Central American presidents met in Tesoro
Beach, El Salvador, in 1989, in a little-noticed accord, they agreed to create
a critically needed regional commission on environment and development.
America is facing an environmental crisis unparalleled in its history. The magnitude
of the crisis is reflected most dramatically in the destruction of the region's
tropical forests. More than 60 percent of Central America's original forests have
been felled, with most of the destruction taking place since 1950; deforestation
continues to accelerate and is proceeding at a rate of over 4,000 square kilometers
a year. Moreover, the destruction of the region's steep-sloped, upland forests
has triggered soil erosion so severe that it is damaging more than half of all
agricultural land, causing farm productivity to decline. Soil erosion is also
responsible for the siltation of rivers, downstream potable water, hydroelectric
dams, irrigation projects, and the depletion of coastal fisheries.
is another major factor in the area's environmental crisis. Pesticides poison
thousands of Central American farm-workers annually and have contaminated much
of the region's water table. The water supply is also seriously polluted by unregulated
industrial effluents, agricultural residues, and local sewage. In El Salvador,
as a result, only one in 10 people has access to safe drinking water, and in Honduras,
waterborne diseases account for 12 percent of all fatalities. Unclean water has
made enteritis and diarrheal disorders the number one nonmilitary cause of death
in the region.
The roots of Central America's present environmental crisis
can be traced to decades of development policies that have favored production
for export over production for local needs, and the intensive exploitation of
natural resources over the sustainable use of these assets. This pattern of development
continues with the active support of local oligarchs with the assistance of multilateral
development banks, U.S. government, private banks, and multinational firms.
environmentally sensitive Osa Peninsula on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast provides
an interesting example. It is under virtual U.S. occupation. More than 750 U.S.
soldiers, accompanied by 418 pieces of heavy equipment, relentlessly push their
way into Osa. Dressed in camouflage, they go about their work, cutting roads into
the peninsula's previously pristine wilderness.
The U.S. Army is sending
combat engineers to Costa Rica for a series of "humanitarian projects."
And the U.S. presence is taking its toll. Flames of deforestation border a freshly
graveled road. Behind the fires, cattle graze the leveled land. Logging trucks
brim with trunks of trees centuries old.
The emerging reality of Costa Rica
is ecocide. It now rivals Brazil for the fastest deforestation rate in the hemisphere.
The U.S. military entered the Osa Peninsula in March, 1989, for a project it calls
"Roads for Peace." Using their own ships and aircraft, the U.S. forces
enter and leave with no formal inspection of their equipment. The president of
the Costa Rican National Assembly, Jose' Luis Valenciano, asked for an investigation
on grounds that the U.S. forces entered the country illegally.
RESEARCHER: SALLY ACEVEDO
SOURCE: WORLD POLICY JOURNAL 777 United National Plaza New York, NY
DATE: Fall 1989
TITLE: "CENTRAL AMERICA'S OTHER WAR"
AUTHOR: JOSHUA KARLINER
SOURCE: THE PROGRESSIVE 409 E. Main Street Madison, WI 53703
DATE: August 1989
TITLE: "DEATH OF A SMALL COUNTRY"
AUTHOR: MICHAEL I. NIMAN
COMMENTS: Central America appears to have been dropped from
the national media agenda following the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas
in Nicaragua. This, of course, is good news for the Bush administration
which can return to business as usual in Central America without press
attention. And perhaps this is most evident in Costa Rica where investigative
journalist Michael Niman charges that the U.S. media are completely
ignoring the U.S. connection to both deforestation and re-militarization
in that country. According to Niman, his article "explores only
the tip of a very large iceberg. Costa Rica, squeezed towards reckless
overdevelopment by the I.M.F. now has the fastest deforestation rate
in the hemisphere." Niman charges that a conspiracy of silence
has spared the U.S. State Department from the difficult task of explaining
why the militarization of Costa Rica is desirable. Niman also warns
that "The situation in Costa Rica has worsened since the recent
election of Rafael Angel Calderon. Calderon, the godchild of Somoza
and son of the former president who was overthrown in the 1948 revolution
(which abolished the military) is a supporter of both U.S. policy and
re-militarization of Costa Rica."