The border dispute between the governments of Costa Rica and Nicaragua this week struck a personal tone after a verbal confrontation played out in the media between former Sandinista guerrilla leader Edén Pastora (“Comandante Cero”) and Costa Rica Communications Minister Carlos Roverssi.
Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo on Tuesday released satellite photographs and aerial videos showing alleged Nicaragua excavation work in Costa Rican territory, aimed at creating a canal to connect the Río San Juan with the Caribbean.
Pastora responded the next day by calling Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and administration officials “crazy and liars,” claiming that Costa Rica’s statements were “mere inventions.”
The Comandante, who is the Nicaraguan government’s go-to man for the dredging of the Río San Juan, a border river between the two countries, claimed that, “There is only one canal, and it was naturally formed by recent rains in the area.”
Pastora also denied that dredging is taking place in the disputed territory. “They [Nicaraguan soldiers and workers] are not in that area [Isla Portillos], they are more than 3,000 meters away from Harbor Head at the mouth of the San Juan,” Pastora said. Costa Rica refers to the disputed territory as Isla Portillos or Isla Calero, while Nicaragua calls it Harbor Head.
In a Wednesday interview with Nicaragua’s TV News Channel 15, Pastora said the Costa Rican government had failed to offer proof of the alleged new canals, “because they simply do not exist.” He added that videos only show an area of interconnected lagoons mostly covered by aquatic plants.
Roverssi on Thursday called Pastora “a coward and a liar,” and challenged him to come to Costa Rica to face outstanding charges from 2010 involving alleged environmental crimes due to dredging work from that year, which prompted the ongoing row between the two countries.
Also on Channel 15, Pastora appeared to change his previous interpretation of events by acknowledging the presence of dredges in the disputed area. However, he said the dredges were there to “remove aquatic plants to facilitate the river’s flow.”
Pastora said the satellite images obtained by Costa Rica are inaccurate because they were taken from Google Maps. He repeatedly accused Tico officials of “ignoring the previsions established by border treaties between the two countries.”
Following Roverssi’s call to come to Costa Rica to face pending charges against him, Pastora said he would come if the invitation had been sent in a “more neutral” setting.
“He [Roverssi] is vulgar, he’s a brat, he’s arrogant, and he’s not to be taken seriously,” Pastora said. “I’d like to see him come here [to Nicaragua]. … Then I would have a response for him.”
Channel 15 reporter Lucía Pineda showed Pastora the video of the new canal presented by Costa Rican officials. Pastora responded by saying, “It does not show the truth. There is never a wide shot, because it would be evident that all work is being done at the mouth of the river, where we are only working to remove aquatic plants, not dredging.”
Pastora also accused Costa Rica of collaborating with Colombia to attack Nicaragua at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, a reference to yet another border dispute Nicaragua has with the South American country over an area of maritime territory that both countries claim as their own.
Next week, Castillo will travel to the world court to present the most recent evidence, and President Chinchilla has requested a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and officials from the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands.
See highlights of the latest tiff between Costa Rican Foreign Minister Carlos Roversi and Nicaragua’s Edén Pastora, courtesy of News Channel 15, here: