August 19th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) Tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua continue after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s threat last Tuesday to make a claim to the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The statement was made at a celebration marking the 33rd anniversary of Nicaragua’s Navy.
Guanacaste was annexed by Costa Rica on July 25th, 1824 after its inhabitants decided on their own will to be part of Costa Rica.
Though Nicaragua later downplayed Ortega’s statement on Thursday, saying the country was dealing with more “important issues” and appearing to indicate that it had no intentions of actually making such a claim, tensions between the neighbors continue, including disputes over the countries’ maritime boundaries as Nicaragua begins to search for offshore oil, a planned “mega canal” to dwarf the Panama Canal, and an ongoing border dispute.
Costa Rica fired back against Ortega’s comments in full force beginning last Wednesday.
Eduardo Ulibarri, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN last Wednesday that his country has sent 16 letters to the UN Security Council over the “constant provocations” of President Daniel Ortega.
“It is a very disrespectful statement from the point of view of Costa Rica’s territorial integrity. The issue of Guanacaste has been fully resolved from the historical, legal, and human standpoints for more than a century,” Ulibarri told CNN in response to Ortega’s statement.
Ulibarri also described Nicaragua’s interest in acquiring weaponry in recent years as an “arms race.”
Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister, Enrique Castillo, echoed Ulibarri’s sentiments to local media the same day. “In regards to Guanacaste, there is nothing to discuss – the issue has been resolved for 100 years by way of the Cañas – Jerez treaty. There is nothing to negotiate, Guanacaste is part of Costa Rica and will be forever,” Castillo said, adding that Costa Rica would not be intimidated.
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla also gave a lengthy press conference in which she said that Nicaragua “would not touch” Guanacaste.
Costa Rica concerned about “offensive weapons” purchases
On Friday, Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry expressed its concern over Nicaragua’s purchase of what of weapons that it describes as “offensive,” rather than defensive in purpose.
Nicaraguan Army commander, General Julio Cesar Aviles, seemed to confirm to local media in Nicaragua that his military is indeed in search of weapons.
“We visited different factories and shipyards that manufacture naval assets, including in the Russian Federation, for the type of assets that we need,” the general told local media in Nicaragua.
The news comes at a time when it has emerged that two to three ships of the Russian Navy arrived in Nicaragua on Monday, August 12th, on a “visit of friendship and courtesy,” according to Nicaraguan Army spokespeople.
Costa Rica forced to close consulate in Nicaragua due to demonstrations
Yesterday, Costa Rican Foreign Minister, Enrique Castillo, announced that his country was forced to close its consulate in Managua due to “xenophobic” demonstrations against the consulate and its Costa Rican staff.
Consulate officials initially decided to relocate the consulate to a different area outside of Managua as a result of the demonstrations, though residents of the area where the consulate was to be relocated later staged demonstrations and prevented consulate staff from reaching their new offices.
Castillo indicated that Costa Rican consulates in the Nicaraguan provinces of Chinandega and Rivas were continuing to operate normally.
“It is a consequence of xenophobia there against Ticos, encouraged by the Government of Nicaragua, that we had decided to move the consulate to a place that offered better conditions for Nicaraguans, but the inhabitants of the district are opposed to the installation of the [new] offices there and even the roads have been closed, so while situation continues, those interested in a visa for Costa Rica, will have to go to Chinandega or Rivas,” Castillo said.
Ticos plan demonstrations of their own
Meanwhile, Costa Ricans are planning some demonstrations of their own.
Residents of Nicoya plan a march for Thursday, August 22nd, to protest President Ortega’s threat to claim their province.
According to the Mayor of Nicoya, Marco Jimenez, the “March for the Fatherland” is to demonstrate that residents consider themselves “full-blooded” Costa Ricans.
The march will begin at 10 a.m. at the Courts of Justice of Nicoya and will culminate at the Recaredo Briceño park.
Nicaragua begins offshore drilling
On Wednesday, Nicaraguan officials announced to the public that a drilling platform called the Ocean Saratoga has begun drilling the first exploratory offshore oil well as part of Nicaragua’s plan to begin offshore oil exploitation off both its coasts.
The Ocean Saratoga is owned by Texas-based Noble Energy. The first well is being drilled 168 kilometers offshore from the town of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.
The U.S. company plans to dig a well of 3,358 meters to determine the existence of hydrocarbons in the area. The exploration will be conducted over the next 90 days.
The offshore exploration comes as Costa Rica and Nicaragua dispute their maritime boundaries. Costa Rica claims that Nicaragua has offered up waters belonging to Costa Rica for oil exploration.
Costa Rican authorities said last month that 18 areas or “blocks” of maritime territory offered by Nicaragua in the Pacific and 55 in the Caribbean are “clearly located in Costa Rican territory.”