San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua’s President Accuses Costa Rica of Trying to Steal Río San Juan

Accusing Costa Rica, a country without an army, of “bellicosely threatening Nicaragua ” with “elite troops” dressed like “Rambo,” President Daniel Ortega said his government plans to appeal the border dispute over the San Juan River back to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Ortega’s comments, made Tuesday night at his compound in Managua, came in response to Costa Rica’s appeal Tuesday morning to the Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene in the case of Nicaragua’s dredging of the San Juan River – an operation that Costa Rica claims has intruded into its territory.

The situation has become heated in the past few days, leading to a virtual standoff between the Nicaraguan Army and Costa Rican police – both of which accuse the other of being on their territory.

Ortega claims Costa Rica is pretending to be confused about where the real border lays in an attempt to mask its “expansionist” intentions of appropriating the river, as he claims Costa Rica did 185 years ago to the northern Pacific regions of Guanacaste and Nicoya, which used to belong to Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan president said Costa Rica has “been resistant” to demarcating the border along the San Juan River with landmarks, because this would “end their hope” of someday stealing the river from Nicaragua.

“Who has any doubt that it’s part of the geopolitical vision of Costa Rica to claim ownership of the San Juan River?” Ortega demanded.

Ortega said the Costa Rica border has been steadily encroaching northward for hundreds of years, as the San Juan River delta slowly dries out. However, he said, even though the historic river mouth has dried, it is still Nicaraguan territory.

“In the 1600s and 1700s, the river covered an enormous amount of territory at its delta,” Ortega said. “And as the zone has dried, the river has moved and (Costa Rica) has continued to advance and take possession of terrain that doesn’t belong to it. The way things are going, if the San Juan River continues to move north and join with the Río Grande of Matagalpa (in the northern zone), that’s how far (Costa Rica) would claim its territory extended.”

Ortega stressed that according to the July 2009 resolution from the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Nicaragua has the right to recuperate the historic delta of the San Juan River that existed more than 150 years ago.

“Nicaragua has the right to dredge the San Juan River to recover the flow of waters that existed in 1858, even if that affects the flow of water of other current recipients, such as the Colorado River,” Ortega said, reading from last year’s resolution for The Hague.

Ortega added that Costa Rica cannot impede such an operation in Nicaraguan territory.

To avoid confrontation, Ortega said The Hague should have the last word on the matter, because it already has all the information about the border conflict and its resolution from last year is “still fresh.” The OAS, on the other hand, is not informed about the border issue and has nothing relevant to say on the matter, Ortega said.

In calling on the International Court of Justice to mediate the issue, Ortega said that the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica along the San Juan River needs to be marked once and for all to avoid bloodshed and conflicts in the future. He insisted that this will “not be provoked” by Costa Rican forces.

“We don’t want the blood of brothers to spill,” Ortega said.

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