Costa Rican government struggles with internal divisions and armed extremists

In his efforts to prevent Costa Rica being caught up in the Central American maelstrom, President Luis Alberto Monge Alvarez has to contend with divisions within his own government as well as the threat of armed extremists.

The split in his government centers on Costa Rica's Cabinet and its control over the two police forces.

One police force, the Guardia Civil, comes under Public Security Minister Angel Edmundo Solano. The other, the Guardia Rural, reports to Minister of Government Alfonso Carro.

According to Western diplomats and prominent Costa Rican officials, Solano favors a policy of coexistence with the ruling Sandinistas in nextdoor Nicaragua. Carro and his vice-minister, Enrique Chacon, on the other hand, want a militant anti-Sandinista stance.

These sources say that the basic sentiment of most of the troopers in both police forces favors the anti-Sandinista guerrillas. But, they add, Solano makes his Guardia Civil crack down on the guerrilla activities while the Guardia Rural under Carro and Chacon interferes much less.

In addition to such internal disputes, President Monge faces what some officials and diplomats see as a growing potential threat to the country's internal stability from both the extreme left and the extreme right.

According to these sources, elements of the extreme left sympathetic to Nicaragua are beginning to ''disturb the peace'' here by financing strikes and trying to ''subvert public order on a small scale.''

A top official here says there are groups of armed left-wing extremists training in northern Costa Rica - one near Cupalo in Alajuela Province, and the other in Talamanca. He called them ''potential guerrillas'' because they have not yet engaged in guerrilla activity.

He says the ruling Sandinistas in Nicaragua have assisted in setting them up to warn Costa Rica not to be too tolerant of the anti-Sandinista guerrillas operating out of Costa Rica. Also, he said, if the United States ever intervened in Nicaragua, the Sandinistas would like to see guerrilla warfare quickly spread to all of Central America and are sending groups to both Costa Rica and Honduras to prepare for that eventuality.

The same senior official says there is also an extreme right-wing armed group training here - in the northern province of San Carlos. Called ''Asociacion de Huetar Norte,'' the group is allegedly headed by an ex-US Army Vietnam war veteran called Major Lozado.

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