QCOSTARICA – The long, bitter International Court dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua is winding down with the presentation Monday of Costa Rica’s side of the dispute. The trial began at The Hague in 2011 with charges of invasion of Costa Rica’s territory by a handful of Nicaraguan troops and continued with Nicaragua’s defensive counter charges.
Monday, Costa Ricas’s ambassador to The Netherlands, Sergio Ugalde, presented a repeat of the charges of invasion of territory beginning in 2010 not long after President Laura Chinchilla had taken office and a repeat of the defense against Nicaragua’s charges of environmental damage due to Chinchilla’s ill-considered border road construction.
Since that invasion of a San Juan River island, Calero, in 2010 and the dredging of the river by Nicaragua, at first without objections by the Costa Rican government, the relations between the countries have steadily soured. Current President Luis Guillermo Solis has continued the Chinchilla foreign policy of saying as little as possible to its neighbor.
Although some leftist Costa Rican lawmakers have proposed opening a dialogue between the countries, President Solis has continued grimly on the present path of letting pricey lawyers conduct the trail at the International Court of Justice and do the talking for them.
During the third week of April and the first week of May, Ambassador Ugalde and his team is scheduled to wind up final arguments (probably including photo evidence taken by satellite and low flying aircraft) of not only the brief Calero occupation by Nicaraguan soldiers but later Nicaraguan dredging of a channel in Costa Rican territory.
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez confirmed his confidence that the evidence gathered in four years will present the judges with a coherent narrative of Nicaragua’s violation of territoriality. Previous to the World Court charges, Costa Rica presented the case to the Organization of Latin American States (OAS).
The OAS found for Costa Rica in a split vote (leftist countries’ delegates sided with Nicaragua’s far left Sandinista regime) but Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega thumbed his nose at the organization and refused to recognise its authority — a definite and possibly crippling blow to that organization.
But Ortega, who has taken a disparaging, nearly insulting tone with his southern neighbor, is bent on preparing the San Juan River for a US$50 billion interoceanic canal to rival that of Panama. His contempt has been such that it shows Costa Rica’s wisdom in disbanding its military — otherwise the nations would likely be at war.
What is interesting in this polemic is that the issue of environmental damage has been invoked by both sides, unlike most international friction of the past. Many on both sides would say it is a pretext to strengthen their cases, but it may be expected to become more of a strong precedent as the century progresses.