Dredging was designed to create a new river mouth

Swath where trees were cut was the start of a new river channel. Photo: Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Costa Rican officials who sat on reports of Nicaraguan incursions for nearly two weeks are characterizing what happened along the Río San Juan as environmental damage.

Dredging rig is towed upriver. Photo: Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

In fact, the Nicaraguan work crews and a dredge were attempting to cut a channel or canal to the Caribbean and annex part of Costa Rica a new Nicaraguan territory.

Photos released by the security ministry clearly show where Nicaraguan workers felled trees to create an eventual channel or canal for the river.

Nicaragua owns the Río San Juan, thanks to century-old treaties. The international line with Costa Rica is the south bank. So if the river suddenly changes course to the south, the land that remains in the north is Nicaraguan. The point where dredging dumped tons of mud and river bottom on Costa Rican soil still is many kilometers to the sea via the river’s meandering channel. A new channel would cut miles off the journey and provide a direct route to the river from the Caribbean.

Costa Rican officials direct most of the interest to the muddy expanse where the dredge was dumping river bottom onto Costa Rica. Security ministry officials visited the site Saturday afternoon and took photos.

In a brief press report, the ministry said that they encountered dead vegetation and trees cut “presumably with the end of constructing a canal that would unit the Río San Juan with Laguna Los Portillos.” The laguna is a swampy area closer to the sea, and there really would be no reason to build a canal to there. The goal is the Caribbean beyond.

The security ministry also released photos of a tug towing the dredge up river. Eden Pastora, the former guerrilla commander, has been in charge of the dredging. When he headed the southern contras in the Nicaraguan civil war his base was near Barra del Colorado in Costa Rica, so he is

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