341. Telegram From the Embassy in Costa Rica to the Department of State1

6035. ARA only. Subject: (C) Costa Rica—Coping Badly With Foreign Extremists.

1. (S-Entire text)

2. Costa Rica’s institutions and her citizenry have great resilience to them and three months here have by no means made me into a Cassandra. But one has the sense that events may be overwhelming the GOCR’s capacity to cope in the security field (the subject of this message) as well as the economic field where panic over the GOCR’s belated austerity measures brought about a presumably temporary 50–60 percent devaluation of the colon on the street.2

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3. We have focussed in this channel on our mostly unsuccessful efforts to get the GOCR to do something about the Cuban ops center.3 But the GOCR continues to demonstrate an inability to cope with the activities of all foreign extremist groups, now expanding to include far rightist groups as well as the familiar Latin left under Cuban sponsorship.

—Despite the information we gave the President, not only does the Cuban ops center continue to exist unmolested, but Willy Azofeifa, a man whom we identified as a Cuban contact, continues in a major position in the Ministry of Public Security.

—Reports continue of efforts at arms smuggling, although the Minister of Public Security, who is honest if overwhelmed, can make something of a case that the Salvador plane crash put a damper on this Cuban-sponsored activity. At all events, if the information in San Salvador 6979 is correct, the FARN got significant arms through Costa Rica.4

—Reports continue of guerrilla training, both of leftist Salvadorans and, now on the right, of anti-FSLN Nicaraguans.

—The GOCR gave former Interior Minister Johnny Echeverria, who was involved in some fashion in the Salvador arms smuggling, an official passport on which, according to Seso reporting, he will surreptitiously travel to Cuba and Moscow.

—To the earlier Seso reports of Salvadoran terrorist plans in Costa Rica have been added a spate of reports on right wing terrorist plans (variously involving local Cuban exiles, Miami-based Nicaraguan Somocistas, and Guatemalan right wingers).

—The Minister of Public Security just informed me that in the last several weeks 12 East German passport holders had drifted into Costa Rica, some across frontier checkpoints, the rest via commercial air. Seso is checking names.

—The Communist Party, which has three deputies in the legislative assembly, sponsored a meeting of extreme leftists from a claimed 30 countries in the hall of the legislative assembly itself, which drew no [Page 840] little criticism from the press. The meeting predictably called for violence almost everywhere except Costa Rica.

—A suspected Italian right wing terrorist runs a business here despite the continued efforts of the Italian Government to have him expelled.

5. In our efforts, we have encountered more words than action. Carazo, after flirting with the idea of throwing out Comas, the head of the Cuban ops center, refrained from doing it because of explicit or implicit Cuban blackmail on the subject of associates or even family. And, as the Department knows, while our representations on arms smuggling did to some degree inhibit the Cubans, it was at the cost of alerting them through GOCR leaks. They have tightened up security, restricting our current knowledge of Cuban activities. We can expect more extremist activity including, perhaps, terrorist incidents unless [Page 841] the GOCR does something to make this place less of a Mecca for extremists. We have collectively talked with Carazo on a number of occasions and the Mission has religiously supplied the government with any information on reputed, terrorist activities—left or right—but while this serves to alert the security people, it has done little more than help them expel a few undesirables.

6. A peculiar schizophrenia affects this government, a habit seen in many areas of doing conflicting things simultaneously. Here Carazo and the GOCR have rendered what can only be described as vital support for Salvador and yet activities go on here aimed at destroying the JRG. To be fair, I suspect his unwillingness to act against the Cubans goes beyond family considerations. He knows his police and security forces are not terribly effective in these matters, probably fears the Cubans could stir up considerable trouble here were they evicted and sees their presence as a kind of guarantee against local leftist acts aimed at Costa Rica itself.

7. This message offers no prescriptions except to keep plugging away where we have opportunity. At writing, anti-Salvador activities here hurt but do not seem to be of a scale that could effect the outcome there. Carazo, like so many others, is waiting for the US elections. Once past, we will have to look at strategies again, particularly in the context of his visit to the U.S.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 5699 from San José, September 27, the Embassy reported that Carazo had announced economic austerity measures on September 25 which included “new measures the GOCR was taking to reduce imports and travel, stimulate exports, reduce consumption and generally get the economy back into equilibrium.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800461–0863)
  3. In telegram 5593 from San José, September 23, McNeil reported that he and Cheek had “raised Cuban activities” in Costa Rica with Carazo who said that “the GOCR (and Public Security Minister Arguedas) were still working hard at it.” McNeil commented: “In keeping Carazo reminded of the Cuban problem we upset him slightly, but gain the larger benefit of letting him know we remain concerned.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P870047–0128)
  4. Telegram 6979 from San Salvador, October 7, described a visit by a U.S. television news crew to a FARN camp in El Salvador where officers claimed that their weapons had been shipped from Belgium through Caracas and San José. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800485–0973)