San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica, Nicaragua governments meet for 1st time since October

Nicaragua and Costa Rica agreed Tuesday, in the countries’ first meeting since a border dispute arose in October, to reconvene in Guatemala on May 5. The purpose of the meeting will be to coordinate the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime in the border area.

Delegations from both countries reached the agreement during a meeting that lasted more than two hours. The reunion took place at the border town of Peñas Blancas, with representatives from Guatemala and Mexico acting as “facilitators” and witnesses.

The Costa Rican and Nicaraguan government signed the Declaration of Peñas Blancas, which agreed to delegate to the Nicaragua’s Vice Minister of the Interior Carlos Nájar Centeno and Costa Rica’s Deputy Minister of Public Security Walter Navarro Romero, the holding of another meeting at the beginning of May.

The bilateral dispute began last October when Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of entering its territory with both Nicaraguan civlians and military troops. Costa Rica also accused Nicaragua of causing environmental damage to wetlands in Costa Rican territory, after the Nicaraguan government began dredging the Río San Juan, the river that divides the two countries. Nicaragua’s government has denied that the damage has occurred.

The meeting arrived under a level of tension due to the back-and-forth between the governments in regards to the environmental damage. Sandinista youths protested a visit last week by a wetlands commission last week at the Río San Juan (TT, April 8). Nicaragua also declined to let Costa Rica host the meeting in Liberia, as the Managua government didn’t want to “set foot on Costa Rican territory.” That desire to meet on Nicaraguan was so strong that delegates from both countries – in a bizarre display of nationalistic diplomacy – decided to remove a section of chain-link border fencing in the center of the meeting sight. Nicaraguan officials remained on Nicaraguan territory while their Costa Rican counterparts stayed in Costa Rica.

In March, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands issued precautionary measures in the controversy, which ordered both countries to remove all security personal from the disputed Isla Calero. The ruling called on both countries to coordinate their actions against drug trafficking and organized crime at the border. (TT, March11).

The Peñas Blancas declaration was signed by Nicaragua Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Orlando Gómez Zamora and Costa Rica Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Roverssi. Neither country sent top diplomatic officials.

Roverssi described the results of the meeting as “positive,” according to a press release from the Costa Rican government. He called the meeting “a small first step, constructive in the attempt to restore trust, which at present does not exist at this time.”

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