Early this morning, about 70 members of the Costa Rican National Police boarded planes at Juan Santamaría International Airport near San José and flew to the Barra del Colorado airstrip in the northeast corner of the country, near the Nicaraguan border. The deployment of police to the zone was ordered by the Security Ministry. On Thursday evening, the ministry said that Costa Rica would send officers to investigate reports that Nicaraguan troops had entered Costa Rican territory along the Río San Juan, which forms the eastern portion of the border between the two countries.
According to a statement from the foreign minster’s office, the reason for the deployment was to “assure the safety of Costa Rican citizens” near the border and to investigate the legitimacy of reports by residents of the zone of intrusions by the Nicaraguan military into Costa Rican territory.
On Thursday, Marco Reyes, who owns a 210-hectare farm along the Río San Juan, told The Tico Times that Edén Pastora, known as Comandante Cero, had entered into his property during the week and claimed that the land belonged to Nicaragua. Pastora, who is a Sandinista revolutionary hero, said that Nicaragua needed the land for the dredging of the Río San Juan, which began Monday in San Juan del Norte, at the mouth of the river at the southern end of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.
In an interview with a Nicaraguan television network, La Prensa TV, Pastora stated that the land, which is on Isla Calero in northeast Costa Rica, “doesn’t belong to anyone” and that “no one had defined the border” between the two countries.
“We have received several reports of Nicaraguan activity on the Costa Rican side of the Río San Juan,” said Costa Rican Security Minister José María Tijerino in a press conference Thursday night. “We plan to go to the region to assess the reports and assure that no further harm is done to Costa Rican land or citizens.”
On Thursday, the foreign minister’s office submitted a formal protest to the Nicaraguan ambassador in Costa Rica, Harold Rivas, demanding that Nicaragua cease the dredging until the issues of reported harm to Costa Rican interests was addressed. The protest claimed that the dredging had resulted in large amounts of sediments being pushed to the Costa Rican side of the river and that several Costa Rican citizens had reported damages to goods and property.
On Friday, a representative of the Nicaraguan Embassy in San José told The Tico Times that Rivas would not issue a response to the Costa Rican protest until a later date.
According to the personnel of several fishing lodges in Barra del Colorado, dozens of armed Costa Rican police in military fatigues were participating in training activities on the village soccer field, in the small town’s center. Throughout the day, helicopters and planes came and left the Barra del Colorado airstrip, reportedly to get aerial views of activities along the Río San Juan, north of the town.
“We are hearing very loud helicopters and planes,” said RoseAnne Cody, the general manager of the Silver King Lodge in Barra del Colorado. “It is not our quiet little village anymore.”
For daily updates on the border conflict along the Río San Juan, visit www.ticotimes.net