Nica-Tico Summit Avoids Thorny Issues

October 10, 2008

The deputy foreign ministers of Nicaragua and Costa Rica promised to cooperate on immigration, tourism, trade and education at a summit here last week, but they made little progress on key issues that have long divided the two nations.

“The border communities have begun to display tiredness and impatience (with) so many meetings, so many words and results that do not meet expectations,” said Edgar Ugalde, Costa Rica’s deputy foreign minister, according to the Associated Press.

At the summit, Ugalde suggested creating a visa for businessmen from one country to more easily enter the other, and Nicaraguan Vice Foreign Minister Valdrack Jaentschke said he would forward the proposal to Nicaraguan authorities, according to a document summarizing the closeddoor meeting.

Ugalde also said the Costa Rican Education Ministry and the Nicaraguan Embassy are working to create identification cards for undocumented Nicaraguan immigrants in Costa Rican schools, although he made clear that such cards would not award residency.

Nicaraguan and Costa Rican authorities have now met seven times since 1991 under the Bilateral Commission, a project to create a permanent dialogue to address issues of common interest between the two nations. The commission was suspended in 1997 during an escalation of tensions over the San Juan River.

Mention of the river was conspicuously absent from the final document, signed by Ugalde and Jaentschke. Costa Rica is now suing Nicaragua for navigation rights to the river in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The court is expected to rule in that matter next year.

The document also did not mention a gold mine a few miles from the Nicaraguan border that was recently approved by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Nicaraguan authorities say the mine will pollute the San Juan.

A third point of friction between the two nations has been the death of Natividad Canda, a homeless Nicaraguan immigrant mauled by rottweilers in 2005 as police, emergency officials and a news team looked on. Last month, a Cartago tribunal found eight police officers innocent of Canda’s death.

 

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