Does Nicaragua consider Costa Rica a threat to national security?

December 8, 2010

A proposed National Security Law scheduled for vote in the National Assembly next Monday could provide the legal grounds for Nicaragua to officially declare Costa Rica a “threat to national security.”

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla last weekend told the Costa Rican daily La Nación in an interview that she considers Nicaragua to be an “enemy” of her country.

Now, Nicaragua might return the favor. If the proposed National Security Law is passed the way it was written, President Daniel Ortega could use the new legislation to declare Costa Rica an official threat to Nicaragua’s national security.

Article 7 of the bill identifies the following threats to Nicaragua’s national security: “The pretensions of expansionism by any State into national territory;” relations to “narco-activity;” and “actions against the environment and natural resources of the country.”

In the past three weeks, the Nicaraguan government has accused Costa Rica of all three offenses.  

During a special congressional session held last month in San Carlos, on the banks of the San Juan River, Nicaragua’s top military general, Julio César Aviles, warned of Costa Rica’s “old pretensions of expansionism” and called on Nicaraguans to defend the country.

“It is our patriotic duty to defend Nicaragua. We all need to unite against Costa Rica’s plans,” said Gen. Aviles.

President Daniel Ortega, meanwhile, has accused Costa Rica of defending the interests of narco-traffickers and “destroying” Nicaragua’s environment, as well as plotting to steal the San Juan River.

It would appear, therefore, that Ortega could be close to declaring Costa Rica as an enemy to Nicaragua in a quid pro quo. And the new law would give him the legal mechanism to do so.

But not everyone is convinced Ortega will go that far. Opposition politician Francisco Aguirre, president of the National Assembly’s Commission on Foreign Affairs, said he doesn’t think Ortega will escalate bilateral tensions any further by officially declaring Costa Rica as an enemy or national security threat.

“Ortega does believe in brinksmanship, but I don’t think he will be provoked by Chinchilla,” Aguirre said. “I think that Chinchilla has really gone out on a limb declaring Nicaragua as an enemy, which is inconceivable.”

He added, “Costa Rica always like to try to take the diplomatic highroad.” But said that Chinchilla has recently been acting “bellicose” and “erratic.”

“She’s acting more Nicaraguan than Costa Rican,” Aguirre said.

Read this Friday’s Nica Times for more on the Ortega’s polemic defense-bill package, which analysts warn could be a final blow to Nicaragua’s weakened democracy and the next step towards establishing a military-backed Sandinista regime.

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