San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Border dispute

Costa Rica’s foreign minister accuses Russia of helping militarize Nicaragua

Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo, who leaves office this week, expressed concern that Nicaragua is building up its military with the help of Russia. However, he said he is optimistic about pending cases before the International Court of Justice at The Hague concerning border conflicts with Costa Rica’s northern neighbor.

“Russia is facilitating armaments for Nicaragua, [including] ships, and they have discussed the purchase of aircraft and other types of armaments. I fear trouble,” Castillo said in an interview with the daily La Nación, published Sunday.

According to Castillo, San José’s problems with Managua aren’t limited to border disputes, and “Nicaragua is arming itself and entering a relationship with Russia of military dependence.”

Russia “announced the desire to have bases in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, with the euphemistic name of ‘bases for refueling and resupplying’ for its ships. But we know it’s not just about that,” Castillo said.

Castillo will be replaced in four days by attorney Manuel González, who was named as incoming foreign minister by President-elect Luis Guillermo Solís, whose administration takes office on May 8.

Nicaraguan officials have denied that Russian military bases will be built in the Central American country, and they say that cooperation is underway to allow Russian aircraft and ships in transit to refuel and resupply in ports or airports before continuing scheduled travel.

Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov led a delegation that visited Nicaragua last week and met with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. The delegation also visited Cuba, Peru and Chile.

Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov.

Elmer Martínez/AFP

“The Nicaragua situation is under control. It will be resolved when the world court at The Hague rules [on pending cases], but it will remain to be seen if Nicaragua complies [with the rulings]. Nevertheless, we’re in the final stages, and there are no Nicaraguans in [the disputed border area], and everything is calm,” Castillo said.

The tension between the governments of Ortega and outgoing Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla sparked off in October 2010, when San José accused Managua at the world court of invading a wetlands area that belong to Costa Rica, as well as dredging the San Juan River and opening canals in the disputed area. Costa Rica says Nicaraguan soldiers also “invaded” Costa Rican territory.

One year later, Nicaragua retaliated by accusing Costa Rica of building a border road parallel to the San Juan that caused environmental damage to the river basin. The world court rolled both accusations into a single case.

Later, Chinchilla’s government filed a second case before the court over maritime boundaries in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. That case likely will begin in 2015.

After being elected president on April 6, Solís traveled to Central American countries and the Dominican Republic to meet with leaders and personally invited them to his May 8 inauguration. He skipped Nicaragua on the trip, instead sending the invitation through diplomatic channels.

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Andy Snyder

The USA doesn’t have the greatest record in Latin America but if you are promoting Russia or China to enter the hemisphere and set up naval and/or military bases, I believe you will find that the USA is a pussycat compared to those two countries when dealing with those who resist at a later date. Remember, with the modern light of the internet and instant communications that we have today, the USA isn’t able to do the type of things they even did back in the 1980’s.

Ken, please don’t compare the USA giving SUV’s, and a large lot of 9mm handguns to Russia possibly building a naval base in Nicaragua. The difference between the two types of military or police aid is vast.

Also, the USA, to it’s credit, did give up the Panama Canal Zone and in the Philippines (I know, not Latin America) gave up Subic Bay Naval Base and Angeles AFB almost 25 years ago.

I really don’t think the Iranians, Chinese or Russians will get too close to Venezuela due to that failed state going downhill fast.

Costa Rica just needs to remain vigilant.

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Costa RIca is so corrupted that they cannot play any role internationally. We just see the news and complain like little girls…

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John Morris

Maybe Costa Rica’s wealthy who benifitted from not paying taxes for an army will speak a little more kindly about the USA’s military presence in the Caribe and be willing to fund some security for the poor of the country they continually take advantage of. Sure, the money used for the old army was going to build excellent schools and hospitals, but somehow that money never was assigned to fulfill those goals.

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Ken Morris

Where does Costa Rica buy its weapons and related “police” supplies? Of late it’s purchases 14,000 new 9 mm pistols, a fleet of SUVs, and who knows what else.

No doubt Russia is assisting Nicaragua, as it has long done, and no doubt Russia’s motives are not without self-interest. But what’s unique about this? Every country that doesn’t have a domestic arms manufacturing industry has to buy them somewhere else, and the suppliers are always self-interested. Every country includes Costa Rica.

The alternative to Russia assisting Nicaragua is for another country to step in and give Nicaragua a better deal. Any takers? Is the US prepared to supply arms to Nicaragua at a deeper discount than Russia is offering?

Like the whole mishandling of the conflict with Nicaragua, here we have another instance of the Chinchilla administration telling half-truths about Nicaragua and imagining that they’re zingers. If Castillo doesn’t have more to say than this, he should keep his mouth shut and wait with the rest of us for a more competent administration to take over.

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Ticoinla Heredia

Hard to give true facts when Nicaragua government are a bunch of liers. Cuba and Venezuela. They never say the truth . remember germany lied untill the end during their invasion.sad how a country thats starving and way under educated spends money one ships planes and guns insted of there people. Russia dumped cuba years ago and they will do the same to Nicaragua as soon as ortega starfs with gimmy gimmy gimmy.

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Juan Vives

This is Putin master move to get into USA’s backyard…

Obama is simply threatning with sanctions while Putin is building a transoceaninc canal, building bases in Nicaragua, building bases in Venezuela and building bases in Cuba, teaming with China and invading Ukraine.

Costa Rica is surrounded. Latin America is lost.

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You have a lot learn about US master moves. Nobody trust the US anymore. I will take a Russian any day over a US citizen,

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Where is your facts.

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Why is the Tico Times so into this type of story? US has lost control of Latin America and Costa Rica.

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Why are you so into the US?

The United States is never mentioned in this article. You’re the only one bringing them up, and you do it in many articles that don’t even have anything to do with them.

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Why does Costa Rica never get up set when US navy ships enter there waters? Double standard. PLN are puppets of US this is very clear.

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Andy Snyder

Ben, they do get upset. The legislature last year did not ALLOW the US navy warships to dock in Limon even though the Chinchilla administration was upset about that. Please get your facts straight.

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I hope this guy can shut up and show the facts.

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