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Cablegate: Costa Rica: Medrete Treats Nearly 400 Patients In

VZCZCXYZ0005
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0836/01 2751418
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021418Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1255
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUMIAGH/COMJTF-B SIMS SOTO CANO HO

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000836

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC AND PM; SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MASS SOCI CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: MEDRETE TREATS NEARLY 400 PATIENTS IN
TURRIALBA REGION

REF: A. 08 SAN JOSE 800
B. 08 SAN JOSE 003

1. (U) SUMMARY. On September 11-12, Honduran-based Joint
Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B) and Costa Rican medical personnel
conducted a Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) in
Costa Rica's remote, mountainous Turrialba region. Nearly
400 people received much-needed medical treatment. Three
members of the national legislature, who were from the
province where the MEDRETE took place, also participated.
While visiting the MEDRETE site, the Charge d'Affaires was
interviewed by national print and television media, which
focused on the positive contributions of the U.S. to this
joint humanitarian mission. Local leaders and patients
deeply appreciated the assistance. END SUMMARY.

---------------------
AN "INVASION OF LOVE"
---------------------

2. (U) From September 11-12, over 50 JTF-B and Costa Rican
medical and support personnel treated nearly 400 Costa Rican
indigenous people in the Turrialba region, approximately 35
miles east of San Jose. At the first of the two sites,
Tolokicha, 241 patients were evaluated and treated for
various maladies. At Xichiari, the second site, 153 patients
were treated. The most common illnesses found included acute
upper and lower respiratory infections, ectoparasitic
infections (scabies), skin infections, some malnutrition in
children, intestinal parasitism, and diarrheal infections.
In addition, the H1N1 virus was detected in two patients and
another five had suspect symptoms.

3. (U) In addition to general medical evaluations, dentists
also provided oral exams and performed some basic dental work
such as extractions. Also, each person evaluated received a
preventative medical and hygiene packet that included items
such as soap, insect repellent, and vitamins.

4. (U) Most of the patients do not speak Spanish, but rather
Cabeca, a local indigenous dialect. Five Embassy translators
and GOCR translators assisted English-only speaking U.S.
military medical personnel. No translation was needed though
to express thanks, as evidenced from the smiles and gestures
of grateful recipients of the assistance. Additionally, in a
letter to the editor in Costa Rica's most respected daily
newspaper, La Nacion, the writer thanked the CDA, Embassy,
and SOUTHCOM for the "great medical and psychological
assistance" provided to these patients. The writer continued
and said that:

"Costa Rica, a country of peace, was the scene of a
military invasion, in this case from the U.S., an invasion of
love, solace, and humanitarian assistance to our ethnic
peoples who need it so desperately."

------------------------------
HELICOPTERS ATTRACTED PATIENTS
------------------------------

5. (U) Both MEDRETE sites were not easily accessible. The
only way to get timely medical treatment to the people in
these areas is by air; the only other way to get to the
remote communities is by horseback or by foot, which takes at
least one day. Because of a bridge that was washed out by
floods last year, the mountainous locations have become even
more isolated due to difficulties to get large amounts of
supplies in. In addition to the general isolation of the
area, the 3000 inhabitants in "nearby" villages often had to
walk many hours to get to the centrally located MEDRETE
sites. For example, one family of seven (with an eighth on
the way) walked for over 90 minutes to seek medical
assistance for the first time ever.

6. (U) Helicopters are the only efficient and effective way
to travel. The presence of large and relatively noisy
helicopters, such as JTF-B's UH-60 Blackhawks, also attracted
dozens of patients who figured out (and word spread fast)
that medical personnel were on the way. One 50-year old
patient, Rafael Martinez, said that he had simply heard the
helicopters and walked a couple of hours to see a doctor. He
added that it had been two years since he had last seen one.

--------------------------------------------- --
MEDRETES HIGHLIGHT U.S.-COSTA RICAN COOPERATION
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (U) As reported in Refs, MEDRETEs are great examples of

bilateral cooperation. Post's Office of Defense
Representative (ODR) coordinated with many GOCR agencies to
make this MEDRETE happen, but most importantly with the
GOCR's Caja Social (similar to U.S. Social Security
Administration, but additionally administers all of the
public hospitals in Costa Rica), the Ministry of Health, and
the Ministry of Public Security.

--------------------------
LEGISLATORS DO "VIP" VISIT
--------------------------

8. (U) Led by CDA Brennan, Post coordinated a VIP visit to
the area with three Costa Rican legislators. The legislators
all hailed from Cartago province, where the MEDRETE sites
were located. They represented three political parties (the
National Liberation Party-PLN, the Citizen Action Party-PAC,
and the Libertarian Movement-ML) and deeply appreciated the
assistance that the USG brought to their constituents.

-------------------------------------
POSITIVE AND SUSTAINED MEDIA COVERAGE
-------------------------------------

9. (U) Thanks to the coordination of Post's Public Affairs
section, positive coverage of the MEDRETE continued in
various media outlets for nearly two weeks after the
conclusion of the event. Four print/internet media and two
TV stations sent reporters, with transportation provided by
JTF-B helicopters, to the remote sites and conducted numerous
interviews, including Spanish language interviews of CDA
Brennan and ODR personnel.

-------
COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) The positive contribution to overall bilateral
relations between Costa Rica and the U.S. due to MEDRETEs is
hard to overstate. Post has supported a sustained tempo of
2-4 MEDRETEs per year over the past two years that has opened
many doors and made believers out of doubters on the use of
U.S. military personnel in the region. With a near
withdrawal of all participation of any Costa Rican police
officials in U.S. military training facilities via the IMET
program two years ago (at places such as Fort Benning,
Georgia where WHINSEC is located), to U.S. military medical
personnel and aircraft flying in Costa Rican airspace, the
transformation of attitudes has changed greatly. Our
"invasions of love" have generated a lot of goodwill.

11. (U) Post sends a special thank you to the men and women
of JTF-B who made it all happen. Their medical
professionalism and ambassadorship benefited both patients
and USG goals in the region. Kudos for a job well done!
BRENNAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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