October 16th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) 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.