Officials suspect dark motives in strange TV report on base

Costa Rican officials say they think there was a dark motive behind an incorrect television claim that the country was hosting a major U.S. Navy base.

Carlos Roverssi, who is now the minister of Comunicación, said that the station TeleSur was trying to destabilize the country. The broadcast about the Navy base in Guanacaste came during Sunday’s election.

The claim resembled what was put out by Cuban sources in 2012. The great Marine invasion hoax appears to have had its origins in late July 2012 with Prensa Latina, the Cuban news service. The Cubans certainly were fed the information by persons in Costa Rica who wanted to embarrass the United States and/or the government of Laura Chinchilla Miranda. 

The Cuban news service report of the arrival of dozens of U.S. boats and 7,000 Marines was picked up uncritically here and elsewhere by even respected publications. One liberal U.S. outlet said “Obama invades, sends 46 warships and 7,000 Marines to Costa Rica.”

The Sunday claim was that 48 U.S. warships, 13,000 Marines, 200 helicopters, six combat aircraft and an aircraft carrier were all in some Pacific base in Guanacaste.  There are some bar owners there who wish this were true.

The 2012 original story stems from the need for U.S. officials to request permission for Navy ships to dock in Costa Rica for resupply and shore leave. The Costa Rican Constitution requires this. The U.S. Embassy simply listed every possible craft that could be on the seas during a span of six months when it presented its request.

Like many bits of incorrect information, this tale refuses to die and is reborn periodically.

TeleSur is an agent of the Venezuelan government, so the incorrect reporting generated much more flak than if it were a private station. That is why officials see dark motives.

The foreign ministry was going to call in a Venezuelan diplomat to express its concern. Apparently TeleSur declined to air a correction when asked to do so Monday.

Roverssi said that officials wanted to believe that the incorrect information was a journalistic error and not something against Costa Rica. TeleSur probably has few viewers here. But the station does have coverage in South America, particularly in countries that were friendly with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

The diplomatic spat comes at a time when Costa Rica has assumed the presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The organization was started by Chávez, and President Laura Chinchilla and other heads of state signed a document affirming Cuba’s right to have a one-party government.

The tale of a U.S. base in northern Guanacaste draws continuing life from rumors by expats here. In fact, during the Nicaraguan civil war, there was an air base on private land that was used to bring in supplies to the anti-Communist contras.

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