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20 years

Nicaragua says it accepts and will abide by ICJ ruling over border dispute

December 17th, 2015 (EFE) The Nicaraguan government said Wednesday that it acknowledges and will abide by the decision of the International Court of Justice at The Hague putting an end to two border disputes with Costa Rica, decisions that recognize Costa Rican sovereignty over Isla Portillos.

The goverment hailed the ruling by the ICJ, which “concludes a page in the history of encounters and disagreements between the governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.”

The coordinator of the Communication and Citizenship Council, Rosario Murillo, said that the Nicaraguan government finds in this ruling the sense of balance that has always characterized the decisions of the U.N. high court.

The government expressed in a statement read by Murillo that, for Nicaragua, it “is of great importance” that the ICJ recognized Managua’s full right to carry out dredging activities in the San Juan River.

It also said that the ICJ unanimously ruled that the Costa Rican govenment demarked and constructed a roadway parallel to the river, failing to fulfill its obligation to first perform an environmental impact study that would result in reducing damage to the local flora and fauna.

“Another important point included in the ruling is (Nicaragua’s) right to regulate … navigation on the San Juan River,” said the government, adding that now the two nations should resolve to “reestablish the mechanisms of dialogue and coexistence that allow us to ensure respect, tranquility and peace.”

Meanwhile, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis on Wednesday expressed his satisfaction with the “forcefulness” of the ICJ ruling finding that Nicaragua violated Costa Rican sovereignty.

“The resolution of the court fully satisfies (Costa Rica’s) national assessment that its territory was invaded by Nicaragua in an open act of illegality,” said Solis at a press conference.

The president said that “the majority of the propositions of Costa Rica were accepted unanimously and completely.”

The ICJ on Wednesday ruled in favor of Costa Rica in its border dispute with Nicaragua by recognizing Costa Rican sovereignty over Isla Portillos (also known as Harbour Head Island) and concluding that Managua violated its territory with its military presence and its navigation rights in the San Juan River.

ICJ chief justice Ronny Abraham read the ruling on the case brought by Costa Rica in 2010 regarding an alleged military invasion and environmental damage to a portion of its territory protected by international treaties, and another by Nicaragua against the neighboring country in 2011 for alleged environmental damage to Nicaragua’s San Juan River during the construction of a road.

Abraham said that the court, in a 14-2 decision, acknowledged that “Costa Rica has sovereignty over the territory in litigation,” the riverine Isla Portillos, or Isla Calero, on the Caribbean coast.

The court unanimously found that Nicaragua violated Costa Rica’s territorial sovereignty by creating three river channels and establishing a military presence in Costa Rican territory in its attempt to link the San Juan River, over which Nicaragua has sovereignty, to the Caribbean Sea.

In its ruling, the ICJ confirmed that no proof exists that Coast Rica had caused environmental damage to the San Juan River in the construction of a road parallel to the waterway.

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  • Ken Morris

    If you compare the quoted responses of Murillo and Solís to this ruling, you catch a glimpse of which country is primarily at fault for the tensions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

    Yes, Murillo emphasized the portions of the ruling that favored Nicaragua, but she also praised the “balance” of the Court’s decision.

    By contrast, Solís falsely claimed that “the majority of the propositions of Costa Rica were accepted unanimously and completely,” when in fact they weren’t. Even the big decision that favored Costa Rica was split 14-2. He then adds the dig that Costa Rica “was invaded by Nicaragua in an open act of illegality.” Well, sort of, but it took a long court case that resulted in a split decision to reach this conclusion, and I for one wouldn’t characterize the Court ruling in a messy and confusing case as declaring that Nicaragua committed “an open act of illegality.” Mostly, since Costa Rica won this point, you’d think it would be time for Costa Rica stop running down Nicaragua and accept its victory graciously rather than to continue exaggerating Nicaragua’s misdeeds.

    This anymosity of Costa Rica toward Nicaragua is a serious problem for Costa Rica. It seemingly prompted Chinchilla to refuse to speak to Ortega when this altercation first arose, even though Ortega repeatedly invited her to discuss it. Instead she wasted tens of millions of dollars crisscrossing the globe badmouthing Nicaragua, tens of millions more on an ill-conceived road, and tends of millions more on a World Court battle that only resulted in mixed verdicts. Why didn’t she just settle this directly with Nicaragua at the time–or at least try?

    And more recently, we see a repeat situation with the Cubans. No one in Costa Rica’s government seemed to feel it was necessary to ask Nicaragua if it was willing to violate its own immigration laws and accept the Cubans before it attempted to foist them on Nicaragua–and then when Nicaragua sensibly refused, Costa Rica had a field day once again bashing Nicaragua.

    Of course, the result of this is that Costa Rica is now stuck with the hassle and expense of dealing with thousands of illegal Cubans. Disrespecting Nicaragua carries costs for Costa Rica.

    Let’s hope that Solís was either misquoted or quoted out of context, because if he wasn’t, the tone of his remarks suggest that there will be no relaxing of tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua–and it will be largely Costa Rica’s fault.

    • dark451

      I dislike Ortega’s policies and governing style. I don’t believe he is a statesman. Most people will agree that he is a dictator. However, the reaction from his government over loss and/or wins at the World Court are better than the CR Gov.
      Solis seems like a good guy. But I fear he is continuing the CR policy of fighting with Nicaragua.

  • Yeims

    Who could be stupid enough to make the riverbank the national boundary instead of the center of the river in the first place?

  • costarick

    In true form, I’m sure we’ve not heard from President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua directly on this matter, as he is likely being held in a padded room somewhere, throwing a temper tantrum. He clearly exhibits the worst of undiplomatic, irreverent, and childish behavior at times like these, when decisions, such as this one by the World Court, don’t go in his favour. His wife had to do the speaking for the Country, along with some other “underlings”. There is no doubt that Nicaragua perpetrated the problem and deserves to suffer all of the negative consequences of the World Court decision. Nicaragua has always acted in a jealous and child-like manner when dealing with Costa Rica. After all, it is hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans who have chosen to live and work in Costa Rica, not the other way around.

    • dark451

      Who had a temper tantrum when Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize rightly decided not to violate their own immigration laws over the Cuban migrant issue?
      Was it Nicaragua? Costa Rica was quick to point the finger at Nicaragua over that.
      I am by no means a defender of Ortega, but Costa Rica is NOT the angel she portrays herself to be.

    • Ken Morris

      Since you feel free to speculate that Ortega is in a padded room throwing a tempter tantrum, let me speculate that it is quite the reverse.

      Ortega hasn’t cared about this altercation with Costa Rica since he cut the canal deal with the Chinese billionaire. That deal makes Nicaragua’s access to the area irrelevant. Indeed, while Costa Rica was pitching a hissy fit, Ortega already realized that he wasn’t going to get anywhere negotiating shared development of the area with Costa Rica (this was his real objective) and moved on to find someone else he could do business with. Costa Rica was therefore left to whine about an issue that Ortega had forgotten–and left out of a joint development deal that could have really helped Costa Rica too.

      Meanwhile, good grief, Ortega sent egomaniac and borderline nut Edén Pastora out as the front man in the controversy. Since 1978, if not before, Ortega has always used Pastora to his advantage. Ortega himself served with Pastora on the Southern Front, mainly to keep an eye on him, and then on the eve of victory Pastora’s supplies were cut in order to prevent him from being the one to claim victory and install himself as the new government (a deal he privately negotiated with the CIA). It’s funny how the press keeps seeing Pastora as this mighty man, when he wasn’t even the first commander zero and Ortega used him the whole way. When Pastora was put in charge of the Rio San Juan controversy, I at least knew that Ortega wasn’t serious about it (and as events evolved Nicaragua did try to pin responsibility on Pastora as a rogue actor in the World Court, although the Court didn’t buy that defense).

      Ortega’s relationship (some would say “pact”) with Murillo is more complex, but as a general rule he just lets her do whatever he doesn’t want to deal with himself. She is dumb and narcissistic enough to enjoy the limelight that her co-presidency gives her, but nobody should believe for a minute that Ortega is being squeezed out. He just focuses on the mostly behind the scenes things he’s good at, such as negotiating a multi-billion dollar canal deal.

      Think about it: How many world leaders have been in power for 36 years and still enjoy the popular support of around two-thirds of the people? This isn’t an accident. It happens because Ortega consistently stays a step ahead of his opponents.

      Ortega’s most consistent advantage is that his opponents underestimate him, and that I suggest is what Costa Rica keeps doing and you have done here. Actually, he’s not likely being held in a padded room throwing a temper tantrum, and every time these caricatures of him surface, they just play to his advantage. The perhaps uncomfortable reality is that Ortega is a very savvy politician who is almost always a step ahead of his opponents, including Costa Rica.

      And what the hell do the hundreds of thousands of Nicas living in Costa Rica have to do with this (or the Cuban migrants)? That is a totally separate issue–basically an economic issue–yet Ticos so enjoy bashing the poor Nicas that serve as their maids and construction workers that they always have to bring up Nica immigration to Costa Rica.

      Actually, Nica immigration to Costa Rica has fallen off since Ortega was reelected president, presumably because of the slight economic improvements that have happened under his watch. It was also quite low prior to the 1970s, when Nicaragua’s economy was on a par with Costa Rica’s. Back then Ticos were as apt to move to Nicaragua as Nicas to Costa Rica, and should the canal or something like it materialize while Costa Rica’s economy continues to be mismanaged, the future may well see Ticos once again moving to Nicaragua. The migration patterns are clearly driven by the economic opportunities, not by cultural preferences.

      On this note, you might want to ask Nicas in Costa Rica whether they prefer Costa Rica to Nicaragua. Of course, to get an honest answer, you have to ask them when Ticos aren’t around as well as ask honestly, since Nicas will sensibly lie and say that they love Costa Rica if they feel that’s the answer you want. Privately, however, most Nicas will tell you that they’d love nothing better than to go home. Of course, after many years and into second generations, Nicas become more comfortable with Costa Rica, but the bottom line is that most of them are economic migrants who can’t go home and survive, so they stay in a country they don’t particularly like for the work.

      Of course, the huge question is how Nicaragua’s economy got into the mess it’s been in since the 1970s. Fortunately, this at least wasn’t Costa Rica’s fault, and in fact Costa Rica was quite supportive of Nicaragua into the 1980s. Some would fault the economic mismanagement of Nicaragua’s economy by the left during the 1980s, others the systematic attempts by the US to destroy the economy then, and still others the capital flight Nicaragua endured then (thanks in part to Uncle Sam welcoming any Nica then as a “refugee” more or less with the same ease that it still welcomes Cubans). There’s probably some truth to all these explanations. However, the real question is why there was no improvement since 1990, despite three US-supported right-leaning presidencies. This is the era during which impoverished Nicas swarmed to Costa Rica–not because they had any cultural affection for the land of pura vida, but because they needed to be able to earn enough money to buy food.

      Anyway, I don’t see how Nica immigration to Costa Rica has anything whatsoever to do with either this case or the Cuban migrants. It’s a separate set of issues altogether. Also, while I see no reason to fault Costa Rica for not assisting Nicaragua with its economic development initiatives, since sovereign countries are under no such obligations to their neighbors, I do find it shortsighted of Costa Rica not to be more proactively helpful, and instead to consistently be a sour puss every time Nicaragua tries anything. (If memory serves, Costa Rica has even voiced disapproval of the canal.) What Costa Rica is failing to understand is that countries’ economic fortunes are improved when their neighboring countries’ economic fortunes are improved. Costa Rica would benefit from a more economically prosperous Nicaragua, yet Ticos don’t seem to understand this–maybe because they like the cheap Nica maids and construction workers as well as the feeling of superiority they get by bashing Nicas.

      With respect to Nicaragua, Ticos have been shortsighted for a long time–and they are paying for it. A more farsighted Tico leadership would have never allowed this controversy to have mushroomed into the mess that it did, and might even have extracted an economic development deal from it for an area now mainly used by drug couriers.

      Meanwhile, don’t kid yourself, Ortega doesn’t give a rat’s ass. He moved on years ago. Only the political amateurs in Costa Rica remain obsessed with this case. Ortega handed the thing to his wife–who also handles the Christmas decorations.

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