The invasion of Costa Rica by Nicaragua is far from over, but Daniel Ortega and his aides clearly are the winners of the propaganda war.
Ortega, the Nicaraguan president, has been able to frame the invasion of the Isla Calero as a border dispute to avoid the international condemnation that would follow a military maneuver against a country that does not have an army,
An analysis of the news
Ortega and his advisers also have raised the specter of drug trafficking to justify putting Nicaragua troops on Costa Rican soil. His campaign got help because Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said very little for days, and the invaded country looked to international organizations for help.
Joseph Goebbels, the Reich minister of propaganda, could have done no better, and it appears Ortega is following vintage propaganda techniques carefully. Gobbles used them, we know from his diary. The Soviets were masters. And the North Vietnamese and Chinese are the successful students. Not to mention the Cuban Communists and the lapdog Prensa Latina.
Ortega had to move fast because the Isla Calero clearly is Costa Rican soil, and his dredging overseer did not hide efforts to cut down trees and
dump river sediment on Costa Rica soil. So Ortega adopted the big lie, the technique of telling a big untruth so frequently that people believe it.
One such lie was that the operation was to clear the river of sediment. The real purpose is to put a new direct route from the Caribbean to the river by putting a channel through Costa Rican land.
Then there was the evidence: An incorrect google map found online.
And the stall technique: An offer to negotiate and much discussion about fixing the boundaries along the Río San Juan.
Ortega even brought the country’s legislators to the river in a special meeting to validate his territorial claims. The bandwagon technique.
Every successful piece of propaganda has a kernel of truth, and the Río San Juan boundary has been controversial for more than a century. Plus there is deep prejudice against the wealthier Costa Rica among the average Nicaraguans.
But it also helps that Costa Rica made little effort to counter the propaganda coup until Wednesday when Ms. Chinchilla bemoaned the lack of international action in the face of an invasion. Ortega created so much smoke and mirrors that it is not clear to leaders of other countries that the issue is not a boundary dispute. Except those leaders who know Ortega and those like him.