RIO SAN JUAN – Edén Pastora has been reading the news coverage he’s been getting in Costa Rica, and he’s not happy. “They’re poisoning the Costa Rican people’s minds,” Pastora said last week, referring to recent media coverage in Costa Rica. “Now I’m the villain of the movie.”
Pastora believes that Costa Ricans’ opinions of him are shortsighted, and he’s dismayed. While demonized for allegedly starting the border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica on the Río San Juan, Pastora believes that time will help restore his reputation and bring him the hero status he feels he deserves.
“One day they are going to declare me a hero in Costa Rica,” he told The Tico Times last week in an exclusive interview in rural Nicaragua. “[Costa Rica] will benefit more from the dredging [of the San Juan] than Nicaragua. [Costa Rica] manages the business of tourism better than we do. And that’s why Ticos, when they’re navigating and using a cleaner river, will call me a hero.”
Hero is the last word Costa Ricans would use to describe Pastora in recent months. In October, a Costa Rican farmer reported that Pastora and Nicaraguan soldiers raided his farm and took over his property on the south side of the Río San Juan. A Costa Rican prosecutor obtained an arrest warrant for him for allegedly invading the farm (NT, July 16, TT, Oct. 19, Nov. 17, 2010).
After several failed attempts at diplomatic negotiations and international maneuvering, Costa Rica finally brought a case against Nicaragua at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, charging the administration of President Daniel Ortega with environmental damage and an “incursion into, occupation of and use by Nicaragua’s army of Costa Rican territory.”
EP: I hope that you write in The Tico Times my exact words and that you do so objectively.
TT: Of course. That’s my job.
EP: Because often, someone says one thing and the media writes something else. In this case, to me it is very important to be objective and accurate, and to write all the things that we are talking about, because I know that some Costa Ricans care for me very much. I have very good friends that are Costa Rican and that care for me, but, I also know that during these heightened times, the media has waged a negative campaign against me. Now I’m the villain of the movie.
If I’d been ordered to damage Costa Rican territory, I would have said no. We are not damaging Costa Rica. We are doing something good, something that could unite Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We are defining the borders, making the river navigable, and one day, the Ticos will be pleased with the results when they navigate the river, because they do have the right to navigate the river.
One day they are going to declare me a hero in Costa Rica when they are in their yachts and their tourist companies make money, because the Río San Juan is navigable and useful for Costa Rica.
This border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica doesn’t make me uncomfortable, upset or angry. It surprises me. It surprises me that the Costa Rican politicians allow President Laura Chinchilla to make a fool out of herself in front of international organizations. They aren’t talking about the accords that created the borders between the countries. They aren’t talking about the Jerez-Cañas agreement. They aren’t talking about the Cleveland and Alexander accords (border clarifications). They aren’t talking about Harbor Head. They are talking about Isla Calero, Isla Calero, Isla Calero.
I know that Isla Calero and Isla de los Portillos are in Costa Rican territory. A thousand percent, just like Guanacaste-Nicoya. So, it is strange to me because in the Jerez-Cañas agreement and the Cleveland and Alexander accords, there is not one mention of the Isla Calero. The border is the right margin of Harbor Head and the first tributary.
So, I’m astonished that Costa Ricans have put themselves in position to make a fool out of President Laura Chinchilla, who is someone that we as Nicaraguans respect a great deal.
Costa Ricans often talk about the favors they have done for Nicaraguans and for me. But we as Nicaraguans have also done a number of large favors for Costa Ricans. There is historic reciprocity between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It is simply poor manners to be refusing to acknowledge this favor we are doing for them, and then throw it in our faces.
It surprises me that Laura Chinchilla has started talking about military and police forces at the deltas where Costa Rican rivers meet the Río San Juan, at Sarapiquí, San Carlos and the Río Colorado. I thought that they were going to bring professors. I thought they were going to bring teachers with pencils and notebooks and books. I think Costa Rica is starting to forget about how to be the Costa Rica that we’ve always admired.
I would like to be able to talk one day and tell them these things, as a brother nation, in the spirit of Central America. And to encourage them to quit promoting the hatred of Nicaraguans, their fellow Central Americans.
So, those are my comments. Go ahead, ask me some of your questions.
You mentioned the police forces and security plans for Costa Rica in the river deltas. What is your opinion about the Costa Rican decision to increase security forces?
I think they have the right and the liberty to put all the police and security forces that they want along the river. But I don’t think that is the solution. The solution is brotherly dialogue. The solution is to put the agreements of Jerez-Cañas and the Cleveland and Alexander accords on the table and to arrive at an understanding about where Costa Rica starts and where Nicaragua ends. This would help us come to an agreement. I think that is the solution.
The problem isn’t soldiers in Nicaragua or police or soldiers in Costa Rica. I think it would be more effective to put professors in the deltas of Sarapiquí or San Carlos than a police officer or soldier, on this or that side. For us as Nicaraguans, the type of thing like police forces at the deltas isn’t going to scare us. It doesn’t scare us. You have to have more forces for national security. We understand that.
But internationally, Costa Rica is going to lose the image of a civil, civilized, peaceful society. They can put police, soldiers, an army, the Gringos’ army or whoever they want on their deltas. It doesn’t scare us.
In regards to the dredge, what are the plans for the rest of the river? Is it correct that you are going to have more dredges working on the river in the upcoming months?
We are going to clean our river as a right of sovereignty. It is an exercise in sovereignty. We will do it with one, two, three, five or as many dredges as we need and can manage. That’s already decided. In all the organizations, all the institutions, all the agreements and all the accords, it has been decided that it is the right of Nicaragua to clean our own river. It won’t cost Costa Rica one dollar.
I don’t understand why there has been so much aggravation, so much noise. Between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, there shouldn’t be any noise.
Read next week’s edition of The Tico Times for the second part of an exclusive interview with Edén Pastora, the man accused of sparking a border conflict that will forever change relations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.