Costa Rican environmental inspectors briefly detained after inadvertently wandering into Nicaraguan territory

July 30, 2014

Six members of Costa Rica’s administrative Environment Tribunal (TAA) on Tuesday were intercepted in Nicaraguan territory by officers of the Nicaraguan Army, after they wandered off-course during inspections of local energy projects and farms.

“A mishandling or a misreading of the Global Positioning System equipment they used resulted in an official group in two vehicles traveling 650 meters into Nicaraguan territory,” Costa Rica’s Public Security Minister Celso Gamboa said Wednesday.

The group included judges and technical staff from the tribunal, which is part of the Environment Ministry. Among the off-course Ticos was Allan Flores, a former tourism minister during the administration of Laura Chinchilla (2010-2014).

The Costa Rican officials remained in Nicaraguan territory for nine hours until military and immigration personnel from that country accepted a formal request by Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry for their return.

“They arrived last night at 10:30 p.m. and then were taken to Liberia [the provincial capital of Guanacaste], but two vehicles remained in Nicaragua’s custody,” Gamboa said.

Tribunal spokeswoman Gabriela Hernández said the group was conducting inspections of hydroelectrical projects and pineapple and rice farms located in the border communities of Upala and Guatuso.

“It was all a misunderstanding, TAA officials already resumed their field inspections, and the results of the environmental evaluations will be reported in coming days,” Hernández said.

Gamboa said he considered the incident over, with no further diplomatic consequences: “We want to make clear that there was no hostility, our officials were treated well, and their return was conducted under normal immigration procedures.”

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