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Cablegate: Costa Rica: Request for Dod Humanitarian Airlift

VZCZCXYZ0006
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0197 0731535
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 131535Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9520
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUMIAGH/COMJTF-B SIMS SOTO CANO HO IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000197

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

OSD FOR A/S STEVE JOHNSON, DEPT FOR WHA/CEN AND WHA/PPC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MASS PGOV SOCI CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: REQUEST FOR DOD HUMANITARIAN AIRLIFT
ASSISTANCE

REF: A. SAN JOSE 0003
B. SAN JOSE 0071

1. (U) Post requests DoD assistance to provide two
helicopters to lift 160,000 pounds of construction materials
which will be used to construct five suspension bridges to
support indigenous communities in the Talamanca region of
Costa Rica. This is an important humanitarian mission,
supported by, and to be conducted with, the GOCR's National
Emergency Commission (FEMA equivalent), as well as with the
involvement of UNICEF. The lack of safe bridges in this
remote, mountainous and impoverished region too often results
in the death of local residents attempting to cross gorges
and rivers on primitive, homemade bamboo bridges. In the
last year, 12 people have died and over 25 have been injured
at three of the five bridge sites, including children who
died while trying to get to school. Bridges are essential in
this region as most schools, hospitals, and other components
of the government's social support networks are located
several hours walking distance from the communities.

2. (SBU) This request comes at a time when the GOCR has
specifically asked for U.S. military assistance for
humanitarian projects, including last December's MEDRETE (Ref
A) and bridge survey project (Ref B). This is a highly
significant development for a country (and administration)
traditionally reluctant to be involved with most things
military. The Arias government is realizing that targeted
USG humanitarian and security assistance can help rebuild
national infrastructure, improve domestic security and law
enforcement, and address shortcomings in the broken health
care system, all key objectives of the Arias Administration.
This humanitarian airlift mission is also consistent with two
of our four Mission Strategic Plan priorities (investing in
people and promoting prosperity). If approved, this mission
will pave the way for continued humanitarian missions in
Costa Rica, to the benefit of the people and the credit of
the U.S. military units involved.

3. (U) JTF-B assets have already completed two site surveys
in preparation of this operation. OSD approval is needed
since the bridging material to be lifted is non-DoD and on a
non-reimbursable basis.

-------
COMMENT
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4. (SBU) Applications of soft military power such as MEDRETEs
and humanitarian missions, including providing lift for these
suspension bridge materials, directly contributes to
furthering USG policy in the region. Being a country with no
military, Costa Rica's new willingness to receive assistance
from U.S. military assets demonstrates just how far our
bilateral relations have progressed over the last few years.
Post assesses that approval of this request will demonstrate
continued USG commitment to the people of Costa Rica at the
time when they need it. Finally, the GOCR will be an equal
or greater partner in this endeavor and is committed to
seeing it through to completion. Post thanks OSD and
SOUTHCOM for considering this request quickly, and we look
forward to a favorable response.
BRENNAN

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