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20 years

At The Hague, Nicaragua blames Pastora for canals; accusations ensue

October 16th, 2013 ( Nicaragua’s ambassador to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Carlos Arguello blamed famed guerilla leader Eden Pastora for the dredging of two canals near the disputed Portillos Island in the Caleros wetland, over which Costa Rica and Nicaragua are engaged in several conflicts before the international body this week.  Pastora currently holds the title of Minister of Development of the Rio San Juan Basin in Nicaragua’s government.


Arguello attempted to hold the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega harmless in the matter, saying that Pastora acted without authorization from the Nicaraguan Government.


According to Arguello, dredging and the movement of military troops into the area were ordered by Pastora, without authorization of the Nicaraguan Government, which according to Arguello immediately ordered a halt to the activity as soon as it received news of personnel in the area.


As a result, Arguello argued, new interim measures being asked for by Costa Rica are unnecessary, saying that evidence shows that Nicaragua responded immediately and removed personnel from the area.


Nicaragua described Pastora’s incursion into the area as “inadvertent.”


Pastora, however, doesn’t seem content to take the blame.  “I have the authority to clean the river,” he told Costa Rican daily, La Nacion, via telephone.


Pastora later told reporters that he was not operating where Costa Rica President, Laura Chinchilla claimed, and was simply cleaning the mouth of the Rio San Juan.


Pastora said that he was “never in Harbour Head,” referring to the name used by Nicaragua for the disputed island, and that if an order to leave the area was handed down by Ortega, it was to avoid confusion and not give Chinchilla the opportunity to spread “lies.”


Chinchilla described Nicaragua’s argument as “erratic, false and misleading,” by accepting the fact that there were incursions into the area by Pastora, while attempting to deflect responsibility from the Nicaraguan Government.


Chinchilla described Nicaragua’s admission that its personnel had been in the area and were responsible for the canals a “moral victory” for Costa Rica, noting that Nicaragua originally claimed the canals to be the result of heavy rains.


Both sides have been forbidden to enter the area since a March 2011 ruling by the ICJ.


Meanwhile, Nicaragua denied having caused any “irreversible” environmental damage to the area, accusing instead that Costa Rica has caused irreversible environmental damage near the Rio San Juan with the 160km-long border road, officially “Route 1856” but which has come to be known as “La Trocha.”


“The construction of [Route 1856] started without an environmental impact report,” Nicaragua’s Arguello said.  “What is causing irreparable damage to this area? 150 meters of canal or 160 kilometers of road?” he added.


“Costa Rica has not provided any evidence to support its argument of irreparable harm,” said Nicaragua’s adviser at ICJ, the U.S. attorney Paul S. Reicher.


Meanwhile, Chinchilla defended the construction of Route 1856, calling it a “development project” for the country, which has been tarnished by environmental damage and corruption scandals.


“Nicaragua uses this as a smoke screen every time we go to report a violation of our sovereignty, they come up with Route 1856, they have nothing more than that, and of course it is unacceptable to compare the damage they have done in the wetlands to the work we have done on Route 1856,” Chinchilla said.


Costa Rica claims to have evidence that Pastora’s actions were sanctioned by the Nicaraguan Government, which it intends to bring forth today.


Costa Rica’s representatives to the ICJ will have the chance to respond to Nicaragua today in a second round of hearings, while Nicaragua will receive its second audience on Thursday.


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  • NorthendFool

    So when are the Chinese going to invest 30 billion dollars to build the new canal. Ortega has been courting the Chinese and bragging about it. I dont think its going to happen. Im sure the Chinese see Ortega as a blood sucker and are steering clear for now.

    • dark451

      It’s very hard to think that Canal will be a reality. It’s looks great on paper! LOL

  • Ken Morris

    Once again, I find Nicaragua’s blame-Pastora defense surprisingly slick, and see the fingerprints of Ortega all over it.

    Surely he chose Pastora for the job precisely because Pastora is the kind of loose cannon who could plausibly be blamed for acting without authorization, and in retrospect Costa Rica fell for it and paved the way for this defense by focusing so much on Pastora. Pastora is also now behaving very much like a lying guilty culprit. I say that Ortega was thinking many moves ahead a long time ago by using Pastora as the lightning rod, and was planning all along to make him the fall guy when things came to a head.

    The question is whether Costa Rica can prove that Ortega was really calling the shots. It says it can, but I have my doubts. I doubt that Ortega was dumb enough to leave a paper trail.

    Also, there is renewed fighting now in Nicaragua between the army and some rearmed contras, so it’s not a farfetched legal argument to make which maintains that Ortega doesn’t have complete control over the loose cannons in Nicaragua.

    Combined with the essentially irrelevant but nevertheless showy spectacle of the Route 1856 boondoggle, it looks to me like the court is going to have no alternative but to rule, “Now y’all both be good!” That is, I suspect that Ortega managed to dodge another bullet, although we won’t know until the court rules.

  • dark451

    I don’t agree with Ortega most of the time. But in this case, I believe Nicaragua will win this round. No new measures will be dictated by the court. What new could be dictated? The same measures of course!
    I dont see the court halting the dredging of the river unless it also halts the construction of the 1856 road. I just can’t see the court even doing that.
    Here is a better question for you all:
    According to the Alexander treaty, there is a “caño”. If the caño was closed due to sediment (and say it no longer exists), how do you reconcile the “caño-gap” in the treaty? The treaty is very precise in stating that the border starts at “the first caño” encountered and not “at the river proper”. Essentially, if there is no “caño”, then there is no precise border is there?
    What do you guys think?
    Also, for those who think that nica’s maps are proof that Costa Rica is right, Colombia had maps that covered the sea around San Andres. Treaties make borders, not maps.

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