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Cablegate: Jtf-B Helicopters Lift 180,000 Pounds of Bridge

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0401/01 1370028
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160028Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9718
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUMIAGH/COMJTF-B SIMS SOTO CANO HO

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000401

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: JTF-B HELICOPTERS LIFT 180,000 POUNDS OF BRIDGE
MATERIAL

REF: A. SAN JOSE 197
B. SAN JOSE 003

1. (U) On May 14, two JTF-B Blackhawk helicopters completed a
humanitarian assistance airlift of 180,000 pounds of
suspension bridge material for Costa Rica's indigenous
population in the remote and mountainous Talamanca area. The
mission began on May 7 and was to conclude in four days, but
due to inclement weather was extended to May 14 in order to
complete the airlift of all materials, which included cement,
planks, fencing, rope and rebar reinforcement rods. It took
approximately 50 sorties to complete the mission.

2. (U) The suspension bridging material, enough to build five
bridges, will replace dangerous home-made bamboo bridges that
currently span rushing streams and high gorges. In the past
year and a half, over 20 people have died and more than 30
have been injured at the bridge sites, including children who
died while trying to go to school. We suspect that there
have been many more deaths that have gone unreported. The
bridges in these remote areas are essential as most schools,
hospitals, and other components of the government's social
support networks are located several hours walking distance
from the communities. During the rainy reason, floods often
isolate these communities and the new suspension bridges will
assist the indigenous population to self-evacuate to safer
areas.

3. (U) In addition to the airlift of materials, JTF-B
helicopters were able to support the indigenous communities
of Talamanca with several other humanitarian missions. For
example, an eight-month old dehydrated baby and her mother
were medevac'd as well as an 11-year old girl who had been
severely bitten by a venomous snake. All of the patients
have recovered from their injuries. Also, a five-person
Costa Rican medical team was airlifted to a remote village
called Piedra Meza (site of a December MEDRETE, see Ref B) to
provide medical care to some ill indigenous families. Over
20 individuals received treatment.

4. (U) The humanitarian airlift was a joint operation
conducted with JTF-B helicopter and rigging assets, GOCR
emergency management personnel, local NGOs, and about 50
local laborers who assisted in the loading and unloading of
the materials from the helicopters. According to Veronica
Vega of the GOCR's National Community Development
Directorate, more than 15000 local indigenous persons will
benefit from the construction, to be carried out by the GOCR
and NGOs, of the suspension bridges.

5. (U) Both local and national Costa Rican media carried wide
coverage of the event, including television and print. All
of the coverage was positive and accurately described the
involvement and coordination between USG, GOCR and local
NGOs. We did not see any negative references to the use of
U.S. military assets in Costa Rica.

=======
COMMENT
=======

6. (SBU) As noted in Ref A, this airlift came in the wake of
a specific GOCR request for U.S. military assistance for
humanitarian projects. Along with last December's MEDRETE
(Ref B), the successful completion of this complex mission --
involving an unprecedented partnership of U.S. military,
non-law enforcement GOCR entities, local NGOs, and local
laborers -- is a significant development for a country (and
administration) traditionally reluctant to be involved with
most things military.

7. (SBU) By using soft military power, the airlift of these
suspension bridge materials directly contributed to
furthering two of our four Mission Strategic Plan goals for
Costa Rica, investing in people and promoting prosperity.
Post thanks OSD, SOUTHCOM, and JTF-B for approving this
mission. The impact has been huge, both on the Costa Rican
people and on the positive image of the U.S. government and
military. We especially want to thank the highly competent
and professional 16-member military team, who performed
flawlessly. The pilots, crew, and rigging teams were truly
first-class. Thanks to their hard work in unforgiving
terrain and hot weather, U.S. objectives in Costa Rica and
the region were directly and positively advanced.

8. (U) We will conduct a follow-up visit to the bridging

sites once the construction is complete.
BRENNAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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