Chinchilla decries Nicaraguan ‘invasion’ of Costa Rica in The Miami Herald

February 21, 2011

An opinion piece authored by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla was published in The Miami Herald last week under the headline “Nicaragua’s invasion of Costa Rica.” The piece, which appeared in the paper’s Central America section, detailed Costa Rica’s complaint against Nicaragua and allowed Chinchilla to voice her take on the ongoing conflict on the Río San Juan.

“Nicaragua’s intervention in Costa Rica is a major blow to international law and to peace and stability in the Americas,” she wrote. “It is the first time, since a brief war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969, that troops of a Central American country have occupied the territory of a neighbor.”

Chinchilla used the article to explain the environmental damage done to the region and the potential effects of the dredging to the area’s ecosystem.

“The occupation openly violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Costa Rica,” she wrote. “Deforestation was the immediate environmental impact, but a more serious one will follow: the destruction of the sand banks, because the river flows directly through the canal. The impact upon the wetland and its surrounding poor communities on both sides of the border will be devastating.”

Chinchilla claimed that the “invasion” was prompted by false maps produced by the Nicaraguan government that redefined the borders created by the Alexander accord of 1897. The President also alluded to Edén Pastora’s alleged use of the Google maps website to justify the Nicaraguan decision to occupy the land on the south side of the Río San Juan (TT, Nov. 5, 2010). She claimed that, despite Google’s correction of the error, Nicaragua again created new borders on a map released by the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER) in early February (NT, Feb. 2).

“Using flawed maps to support its de facto aggression is nothing new,” she wrote. “Right after (the incursion) occurred, six months ago, Nicaraguan commander Edén Pastora, the man in charge of dredging the canal, resorted to an incorrect Google map to support the occupation. After Google’s admission and correction of the flaw destroyed Pastora’s argument, then came the “inspection on the ground”, which led to the new and altered ‘official’ map.”

After describing the environmental damage and alleged Nicaraguan map alterations, Chinchilla used bullet points to recount the various steps Costa Rica has taken to resolve the conflict using diplomatic bodies. Chinchilla reminded readers of the decision of the Organization of American States (OAS) to remove the Nicaraguan troops from the Isla Calero on Nov. 18, the evaluation of the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance that verified a potential threat to regional wetlands, and the taking of the case to the International Court of Justice in January.

Chinchilla then finished the piece by claiming Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had waged a “hate campaign” against Costa Rica and by asking the international community to pay more attention to the conflict.

“Despite such serious implications, the international community has shown a minor interest in the case,” she wrote. “May the message be that if no weapons are fired and no casualties are counted, there is no reason for concern? This would be a terrible message for disarmed countries such as Costa Rica, and for convincing others to invest in development and institutional building instead than spending on weapons. What is at issue, therefore, is much more than a serious bilateral conflict.”

Full text of the article can be found in English on The Miami Herald website: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/15/v-fullstory/2068821/nicaraguas-invasion-of-costa-rica.html

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