The rock-bottom relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica of 2005 improved this year, highlighted by the first meeting in 10 years of the diplomatic Binational Commission, but there were rocky stretches nonetheless.
The naming of a single, Nicaraguan representative for regional trade-agreement negotiations with the European Union touched off a spat with Costa Rica, where President Oscar Arias insisted each country in Central America should have its own representative at the table. At year’s end Central American leaders had agreed to this alternative.
A case Nicaragua filed in 2005 before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, accusing Costa Rica of xenophobia and failing to protect Nicaraguans, was accepted by the commission in July and continued to keep feathers ruffled on both sides of the fence. The case was based on the stabbing death of one Nicaraguan man and the death of a second Nicaraguan, Natividad Canda, after he was mauled by two Rottweiler guard dogs as police and other officials looked on.
In November, Costa Rica complained of “irregularities” in the way the commission was handling the case. That same month, the Costa Rican Prosecutor’s Office announced that two Costa Rican police officers, identified by the last names Sánchez and Luna, would be charged with manslaughter for failing to save Canda.
Charges against six other National Police officers were dropped. An independent investigation of the incident submitted to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office earlier this year found that police had the opportunity to fire on the dogs but didn’t.
The brutal killing, which was partially caught on tape by a Channel 7 TV News team, touched off a storm of accusations between the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan governments as well as a slew of xenophobic commentaries and jokes that circulated in Costa Rica.