September 30th 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) A paramilitary group calling itself Patrulla 1856 (The 1856 Patrol) has formed in Costa Rica, saying it will take up arms against an “invading” Nicaragua.
On the group’s Facebook page, which was created on September 22nd and already has nearly 3,000 “Likes,” the group describes itself as “a paramilitary group whose purpose is apolitical and to serve the country in support of the defense of our sovereignty, which right now is heavily compromised by the invasion by Nicaragua of Costa Rican territory, constant threats and blatant intent to seize more territory either by manipulation of international bodies or by deploying its army. We rely on the rights granted in Article 12 of the Constitution of Costa Rica. Our inspiration is based on the 1856 campaign, a well known story for both sides and the expulsion of the invaders.”
The ‘1856 campaign’ – and the group’s name – is taken from the Campaign of 1856-1857 when Costa Rica defeated the army of American filibuster, William Walker. The group points to Article 12 of Costa Rica’ Constitution, saying the article provides them the right to take actions in the case of ‘clear territorial defense.’
Article 12 reads: “The Army is banned as a permanent institution […] Only by continental agreement or for national defense may military forces be organized, and shall always be subordinate to the civil power: they may not deliberate or make statements or representations individually or collectively.”
The group’s insignia depicts a pair of crossed M-16 assault rifles and sword, along with the Costa Rican flag.
The group has stated that all Costa Ricans – both men and women – who are at least 25 years of age are able to join the ranks of its paramilitary army.
A representative of the group has stated that it cannot “reveal the structure, size, strength or capabilities,” of its units, as “the potential enemy also uses open sources to collect intelligence data on the defense capability of Costa Rica,” adding that he can only reveal that its ranks have grown in recent days.
The representative also stated that should an armed conflict occur, the group would be disbanded after achieving its objectives and would not continue as an ongoing guerilla movement.
The group has also stated that it would only carry out operations within sovereign Costa Rican territory, “according to official maps,” in order to avoid giving Nicaragua the basis for international legal action. Much of its rhetoric so far has focused on Isla Calero.
As part of a written manifesto, the group says “to deny the real threat and trust that only a group of police will defend us is complete negligence.” The group also clarified that it in “no way represents the government of Costa Rica.”
Dozens – if not hundreds – of young Costa Ricans can be seen volunteering to join the paramilitary forces on the group’s Facebook page.
It is not clear what types of weaponry the group has in its possession.
President Laura Chinchilla condemned the formation of the group on Friday, insisting that diplomacy is the only solution to the conflict.
Chinchilla also downplayed the possibility that a true guerilla fighting force might be organized in Costa Rica, saying that “often [these groups] do not exist in reality,” and could simply be empty talk on social networks.
Costa Rica and Nicaragua are currently embroiled in various territorial disputes before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague and other international bodies.