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Friday, January 29th, 2016  |  USD: Buy 531.29 / Sell 543.92
20 years

Paramilitary group claims to have formed in Costa Rica; Chinchilla says violence not the answer in Nicaragua conflict


September 30th 2013 ( 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.

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  • John Dungan

    hmmmmmm…this could get interesting. Glad I’m outta there.

  • Ken Morris

    I don’t understand how Chinchilla can say that diplomacy is the solution when this is the one strategy she has refused to try. It’s been obvious to me that she has been intentionally or unintentionally promoting armed conflict, although I think she’s been hoping that someone besides Ticos would engage in the conflict. What other sense can be made of her UN speech? A Facebook page by itself doesn’t mean much, but this is the direction this thing is heading. If I were Nicaragua, I’d double the protection on the embassy and move troops to the border.

    • Frank Castle


      As I have said before, before the Sandinista’s were reelected and came back to power, there had been a few problems with Nicaragua but not really anything serious since the 1980′s. Ortega and his thugs are the ones pushing this line about “Hilton Head”, Guanacaste, San Andres, etc. Nicaragua has an army and Costa Rica doesn’t. The Costa Rican police are not an army anymore than Nicaraguan police are. So, the police cancel themselves out That leaves us with Nicaragua armed with a military, buying gunboats, and being bellicose. Costa Rica has no military and only has a coast guard of 82′ patrol boats that the USCG gave them.
      I’m not a fan of Chinchilla either but all in all, you seem to always defend the Sandinista regime which I find curious. I also find it interesting that both Colombia and Panama also feel threatened. Yes, there are economic interests at play but the whole tone coming from Nicaragua is we are going to lay claim to as much of the surrounding territory as possible, send it to the World Court in the Hague and see what happens. If you were a Mexican with your views, you would be telling us the USA should negotiate over the whole American Southwest and Texas so Mexico could get some back. Maybe the Russians could say the Tsar’s government had no right to sell Alaska to SecState Seward too?

      Nicaragua is playing Way the Dog to distract it’s citizens and the world from its internal problems. That is all this is. Guatemala did the same with Belize for years.

      • andy

        Ken is a closet nica

        • Ken Morris

          Nope, I’m not in the closet.

      • Ken Morris

        Yes, as mentioned to Andy, I do tend to side with the Sandinistas, although this gets complicated since I would deny that Ortega represents the movement or party, and at this point (well long before) I would prefer to see Ortega replaced. Problem is, he’s the best the best pol Nicaragua has and is frankly world class. Contrary to your assertion or assumption, Nicaragua is doing better now than it has been since the 1980s–emigration is down, the economy is up–so you sort of have your choice of devils in Nicaragua.

        Also, no question about it, I like Nicas as a people. And anything that threatens them, which this business does, riles me.

        I might also confess that I published a biography of Ortega, so I feel that I have a decent fix on the guy.

        Anyway, what consistently stands out to me is how Ortega is pounding CR simply because nobody in CR has the guts or political savvy to stand up to him. Yes, he’s a pro–he beat Reagan–but at the end of the day he’s just like a grizzled old union boss. He is very open to deals, ultimately wants what’s best for his people, so all you have to do is sit down with him and cut a win-win deal. It drives me nuts that Chinchilla won’t do this but prefers to whine. She’s playing the victim to the hilt, and this is the most disgusting trait of the Ticos. Arias had the balls to go face-to-face with Ortega and find a win-win solution. It’s not impossible, or even difficult, and you don’t have to go to war.

        At the end of the day, all Ortega wants is economic development for Nicas. Costa Rica should want this too. Costa Rica’s problem with Nica immigrants would vanish overnight if Nicaragua had more economic opportunities, and Ticos would benefit directly from this too. Why can’t somebody in Costa Rica sit down with Ortega and hammer out a win-win deal? Why must they whine and encourage war instead?

        And yes, since you raised the issue, my inclination would be to side with Mexico in a theoretical claim for the US SW. The US was an expansionist military empire from the get go, and Mexico got screwed.

        But in today’s world, unless it’s some symbolic land around Israel, no sentient person believes land is important. Land was only important when land equaled money. Now who owns or has sovereignty over the land is irrelevant. Relevant is only the economic use of the land, and who profits from that. Corporations like Exxon exist in a file cabinet somewhere with a PO Box in Delaware, and that has zero bearing on their global economic dominance. Costa Rica needs to look for the deal to be made here, not worry about symbolic sovereignty over a damn swamp (that it failed to adequately police in violation of a World Court ruling anyway).

        BTW, both Colombia and Panama have for all practical purposes pulled out of the alliance with Costa Rica, leaving it to look like a whiner on the world stage. Colombia appears to have only used its conflict with Nicaragua (in which BTW Colombia is defying the World Court) to stimulate whatever domestic enthusiasm it could.

        And as for the Tico cops not being a military, whatever. My sense is that they have the training and the materiel, but that it’s no longer in the national character for them to deploy it aggressively. The Nicas aren’t as recalcitrant. It’s in their national character to fight. So nobody should imagine that any conflict is going to be a slam dunk against Nicaragua. Those 1856 Ticos may well end up dead. War only looks good before it begins.

        I want Nicaragua AND Costa Rica to prevail, but of late Costa Rica is the obstacle.

        • Frank Castle

          Patrulla 1856 is just another citizen militia that is being formed in defense of their country. They did state that they want to defend Costa Rican territory, not invade Nicaragua’s.

          You views on Mexico/USA are most enlightening. I guess then if you were Colombian you would be for Panama to not be independent or Spain to be able to reconstitute New Spain.

          This is madness. All Nicaragua has to do is RESPECT the borders that have been accepted internationally for decades and this furor would die down instantly. I want to see Nicas do well too. Just like I want to see all Americans, from Canada in the north to Argentina/Chile in the south do well.
          As for their government, I just wish the Nicaraguan people would get a government that would benefit all of their people and follow their own Constitution, which the current regime shredded, just like what is going on in the USA.

          • Ken Morris

            Let me add three conjectures here, which you can take for what they’re worth.

            One is that Ortega chose to invade (which while a strong word and possibly not accurate owing to legitimately contested boundaries, he probably did) because he didn’t believe that negotiating with CR for the joint development of the Rio San Juan area would succeed within the next 50 years. CR doesn’t need it, Nica does, and the history of antagonisms between the country caused Ortega to calculate that CR wouldn’t negotiate in good faith without provocation. Therefore, he intentionally provoked CR with the aim of forcing it to the negotiating table.

            Now you, I, most Ticos, and eventually probably the World Court can say that Ortega violated CR’s sovereignty by disrespecting CR’s border, and we would all have the satisfaction of being right. However, being right wouldn’t get the job done that needs to be done. Getting that job done requires a guy like Ortega willing to break the rules and force the issue. This doesn’t make Ortega right, in fact he remains in the wrong, but it does introduce a different criterion of evaluation: Is it not sometimes better to break the rules for the sake of a larger good than to abide by the rules and fail to achieve the larger good?

            I can’t tell you or anyone else how to resolve this matter, and my own opinion is conflicted, but I might add that the US did the same thing when it took out Osama bin Laden. It violated international law, but got the job done.

            My second conjecture is that some of the conflict between Nica and CR is rooted in class differences. Ortega is at base a lower-middle class prole, given to indelicacies and vulgarities that make higher class people like Arias and middle-class ladies like Chinchilla cringe. These class differences in the leadership are mirrored in similar class differences in the population. Most Ticos are more affluent, better education, and more cultured than most of the Nicas they encounter. It is accordingly difficult for Ticos to set aside their prejudices and view Nicas as worthy interlocutors, which makes it more difficult for Ticos to negotiate (and more necessary for Nicas to force negotiations).

            My third conjecture is that there is a set of Ticos that doesn’t buy their culture’s pacifism. I first encountered this set on a local gun discussion board, where I was surprised to see posts every bit along the lines of “Dirty Hairy” as one might find on similar discussion boards in the US. I also have two Tico friends who are anything but pacifistic in their opinions about the conflict with Nicaragua. They want to fight, or at least want to see someone fight on CR’s behalf. Whether any of this will ever be expressed in action, I can’t predict, but there is sentiment in CR that favors armed defense as well as it would appear aggressive action against Nicas inside CR.

            In any event, all this concerns me deeply, as I’m sure it does you and others. I can’t completely side with Ortega, since in the narrow view he is in the wrong. I also want to support the country where I live and that has been good enough to take me in. However, I think that the larger goal Ortega is after is for the best for everyone concerned, so I really want CR rise to the occasion and negotiate the win-win that I believe is to be had rather than sink into deeper anti-Nica animosity, protracted protesting and legal fights, and possibly armed conflict. My main annoyance is therefore with Chinchilla and her foreign ministers, who in my opinion have mishandled this conflict from the beginning and continue to mishandle it.

          • Harry Mann

            What Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua have in commonality, which they do not share with Costa Rica, is a history of bloody civil conflict; mostly owing to economic disparity and festering social resentment. Ortega may resent the relative peace that Costa Rica has enjoyed, and the fact that their GDP isn’t at all consumed by the maintenance of a standing military. Another thing is that each succeeding generation in Central American countries, with the exception of Costa Rica, have a significant percentage of their population living in absolute poverty, which is what fuels the resentment that leads to civil conflict. So, it makes sense that Ortega would want to direct frustration and resentment at Costa Rica, which is a relatively wealthy and promising country. If Nicaragua needs something that Costa Rica has, then Nicaragua needs to offer an inducement and not insinuate threats or to engage in unilateral action. Costa Rica can contest whatever deal the Chinese want to make with Nicaragua if it infringes on Costa Rica. Obviously, Costa Rica will need to study any plans being proposed between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Perhaps, Ortega is exceedingly jealous of the deal he hopes to pen with the Chinese, and so he is engaging in the greatest defense, which is to go on the offensive.

          • Harry Mann

            Ortega seems to be adopting an attitude similar to Zionist in Israel, who believe that Palestinians are living on Israeli lands; and like Rwanda’s military government, which feels that it has the right to violate other nation’s territorial integrity, on behalf of Rwandans living abroad. He sees that the map of Eastern Europe has been redrawn and now his own feet are starting to itch.

        • nipperthecat

          Hey ken, me and my buddies really like your house. I used to have family that lived on that land… I think we need to negotiate that me and my buddies get a part of it back. I really want all of it, but I am a good mench. So only the northwest part? Let have that negotiation real soon… Amigo?

          • Ken Morris

            Glad you posted this example, because it’s exactly the example that I have often used to mull this matter.

            If you are a neighbor messing with my property, isn’t the first thing I do is talk to you about it? You know, “Hey, this is my property! WTF ya doing?”

            My first step is NOT to travel the neighborhood knocking on doors badmouthing you and filing complaints against you in any court that might possibly have jurisdiction. My first step is to talk to you, for crying out loud, and this is the step CR has not taken.

            Plus, if we talk–Guess what?–you might actually have something to say that interests me. You might e.g., “Look, there’s gold buried on the border between our properties, and if we dig it up we’ll both be rich.” Gosh, I might like that idea.

          • nipperthecat

            I do not negotiate with thug neighbors… I call the police. I do not negotiate under threat. Why do you feel CR has an obligation to negotiate with a thug neighbor. If you knew I was serious and was heavily armed, would you really give me some of your house or would you go to the authorities? I am guessing the latter… Get real Ken.

          • Ken Morris

            Convenient. You twice call Nicaragua a “thug,” say its “heavily armed” (implying I guess that CR isn’t), and refer to the readers of the Miami Herald and the other forums in which Chinchilla has whined as “the authorities.” Gee, when you introduce this kind of hyperbolic spin, it makes it sound like CR is a virgin schoolgirl encountering Dracula. I am real, and I take telenovelas for the melodramatic fictions they are.

          • Frank Castle

            Estimated “Military” of 15,000 troops in Nica vs. no military in CR. Oh, well, they have police in CR but they aren’t military. I would say the Nica is “heavily armed’ for that part of the world.

          • Ken Morris

            You may be a military strategist; I am not. However, I think I know that the number of troops is largely irrelevant. More relevant is the training and arms. China for example has way more troops than the US, but spends far less and equips the troops more poorly. Thus, while I suppose anything is theoretically possible, I can’t imagine that Nicaragua’s 15,000 troops would automatically vanquish CR’s 12,000 cops in border warfare. The relevant combat question would seem to be how well-trained and equipped the different fighting forces are. We know that CR still trains some of its so-called police at the School of the Americas, while Nicaragua does not, but I don’t know how comparatively well armed the two fighting forces are. My guess would be that they are armed differently, but that CR has the superior arms. Do you know?

            Of course, the fair question is whether CR’s police is a military under a more innocuous name (as Nicaragua contends) or isn’t. I don’t know the answer to this question either. It would seem to turn on training and arms.

            I do know, or think I know, that in Nicaragua, where the official unemployment rate hovers in the 40-something percent, the military is often considered a good, secure career, so lots of kids are attracted to it. At least this was what a young soldier in León told me. I doubt though that this means they are well-equipped. When labor is cheap, it’s less expensive to pay the soldiers than it is to equip them well.

            And I’m glad you added “for that part of the world.” Divided by the total population, the US has three times more soldiers per capita than does Nicaragua, yet it has super sophisticated armaments. Is a much less technologically sophisticated country with a third the troops “heavily armed”?

            But war talk is crazy when all Chinchilla needs to do is dial the telephone and set up a meeting. I guess if she wants to bring a pistol with her that will be her choice, but something tells me that not one of Nicaragua’s 15,000 troops will fire a shot–and if one tried his old rusty gun would probably jam.

          • Harry Mann

            Nicaragua’s leaders have experience with guerilla conflict and with counterinsurgency. If they need more military equipment, I would imagine they could get it on credit. As far as Nicaragua’s unemployment situation goes, that means that they can field a lot of recruits. And as far as China goes, they may have a larger, but poorer equipped military than the US, but they could lose 300 million citizens and still outnumber the US by 3 to 1; so they have fodder to throw into a ground war.

          • Harry Mann

            I think Ortega may be getting drunk on the idea that Nicaragua may be receiving aid from the Chinese for a new canal. And maybe he is starting to feel like an international player. But what he seems to be saying is that what is his, is his; and what belongs to Costa Rica is negotiable. He is behaving in an arrogant fashion. If someone were to start arguing that they have certain rights to your house, the thing to do is to slam a door in their face and then to express to your neighbors your opinion of the conflict, so that everyone has a good idea about what is going on.

          • Harry Mann

            Many years ago, someone was selling a mansion on an island in Lake Managua. The price was very attractive, but it occurred to me that once the war ended, someone would show up with an attorney, claiming that they held an interest in the property and, being a good egg, they were only interested in a percentage of the appreciated value of the property, which would likely amount to the full purchase price paid before the end of the civil conflict. Ortega is pretty much trying to pull that type of crap on Cosa Rica. At any rate, the boundaries were set 100 years ago. But, the thing of it is, paramilitary groups in Costa Rica, as well as Ortega, may amplify national chauvinism, which could lead towards grass roots conflicts, which the military and police may have to resolves, which could lead to armed skirmishes.

  • mhogan

    This is what happens when a country is weak militarily. All fine and good to claim “abolish” but it does come with consequences.

  • Patrick

    A facebook page is not the same as a real para-military force.

  • El Torito

    Has anyone noticed the symbolism? It’s interesting that this group’s insignia uses the stripes of the Costa Rican flag with stars. (The coffee cup stain in the corner is an amusing touch, though.)

    • Timothy Williams

      They are 7 stars representing the 7 provinces of Costa Rica.

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