Wednesday 26 January 2022

New Diplomatic Conflict Brewing With Nicaragua

Government concerned about Ortega's plan for a Nicaraguan lagoon in Costa Rica

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The government of Carlos Alvarado has expressed concern over the intentions of Daniel Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua to declare the Harbor Head lagoon as a wild refuge, a decision that could provoke a new diplomatic conflict because the lagoon is in the middle of the Costa Rican wetlands and that, by land, access is through Costa Rican territory.

This is the lagoon of Harbor Head, Nicaragua, in the middle of Costa Rican territory and facing the Caribbean Sea. Nicaragua had a military camp in the sandbar in 2016. Photo: Foreign Ministry

President Carlos admitted the concern and assured that he instructed specialized teams of the Foreign Ministry to analyze the issue and render a report as soon as possible.

On November 29, Ortega sent to the Nicaragua’s National Assembly (legislature) the bill that seeks to declare Harbor Head as a wild refuge and is already part of the issues that legislators would be approving this week.

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The bill entrusts the (Nicaraguan) Army with the protection of the wetland and orders greater control of Nicaragua over its own lagoon, by leaving its management and conservation to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Marena). “The Army of Nicaragua will guarantee, within the fulfillment of its functions, the sovereignty and integrity of the refuge,” says part of article 4 of the bill.

Ortega justified his plan by saying that the lagoon “represents a site of importance for the conservation of biodiversity, as this is a wetland and a highly productive ecosystem where innumerable plant and animal species depend for subsistence”.

In February of this year the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided unanimously that the north of Isla Portillos is of Costa Rican sovereignty, while the Harbor Head lagoon belongs to Nicaragua.

However, in his proposal, Ortega does not mention how they will send personnel from his Ministry of the Environment or the teams of scientists they intend to appoint to care for and preserve the Harbor Head lagoon, without the authorization of the Costa Rican government.

Ortega’s plan for the Harbor Head lagoon, located at the northern end of Costa Rica’s Calero Island, facing the Caribbean Sea, is for the Nicaraguan Army to safeguard the wetland and order greater control over the area, that by land, can only be accessed through Costa Rican territory.

The plan does not mention that the Ortega government should seek to coordinate with Costa Rican authorities.

ICJ Decision

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The Nicaraguan lagoon is on the official map of Costa Rica identified as LagunaLos Portillos. Photo: Foreign Ministry

On February 2, 2018, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a decision that resolved the border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which ratified Nicaraguan sovereignty over the Harbor Head lagoon.


However, the ruling did not clarify how Nicaragua will exercise sovereignty over the lagoon since with the new delimitations the lagoon was placed in the middle of the Costa Rican wetlands that make up Isla Calero.

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What the Orteguista proposal focuses on is that “the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Laguna Harbour Head, Nicaragua is contributing to the consolidation of the ecological and biological elements in the Corredor Biológico San Juan-Parque Nacional Tortuguero, on the Caribbean Coast of the two countries.”

“It is something that we have seen with concern and that is under study by the legal specialists of Costa Rica who have been in charge of the defense of the country in that matter (…),” said Alvarado.

Crisis in Nicaragua

The government of Carlos Alvarado has been one of those who has reported the most human and fundamental rights violations in Nicaragua since April.

Alvarado has urged the rest of the world to raise the pressure and supports the application of sanctions against Ortega.

On November 16, after the message from President Alvarado at the summit of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry issued a strong statement in which it accused him of being “a puppet of the United States’ interventionist policy” and that it came to the summit “with daring dissonances, ridiculous airs of grandeur, pretentious positions, and voices of pro-imperialist superiority, incompatible with respect for the rights of others, which is peace,” the statement said.

In the last weeks, as a product of this altercation, the Costa Rica government doubts to send the request of approval for a new ambassador in that country.

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