Foreign ministers reaffirm Nov. 12 vote on Río San Juan

René Casto addresses the Tuesday session. Photo: Organization of American States/Juan Manuel Herrera

In an unusual midnight vote, a meeting of Western Hemisphere foreign minsters voted Tuesday, 24 to 2, that Nicaragua should adopt without delay a previous resolution that said the country should pull its troops out of the Isla Calero.

The vote was reported by the foreign ministry in San José after diplomats in Washington, D.C. spent long hours in a closed-door session.

Voting against the measure were Bolivia and Venezuela. Five countries abstained. Nicaragua was not present.

The resolution that was passed Nov. 12 also called on Costa Rica to withdraw from the area, but the country has no presence on the island.

Costa Rica, which has no army, has been seeking international support. But Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been dismissive of the Organization of American States which convened the session Tuesday. Ortega even threatened to withdraw from the organization.

René Castro, Costa Rican foreign minister, argued the country’s case in an open morning meeting. Castro has been stressing the environmental damage caused by Nicaragua’s occupation of the territory and its efforts to construct a new mouth for the Río San Juan.

An area of about three square kilometers is involved on the north side of the island. Nicaragua has characterized the situation not as an invasion but as a border dispute. This has served to sow confusion among foreign diplomats. Many think that the appropriate venue for Costa Rica to present its case is the International Court of Justice, which by treaty is the arbiter of the international boundary line.  Costa Rica has filed a complaint at the Hague-based court, and a session is scheduled for Jan. 11. However, these hearings take time, sometimes years of litigation.

The action by the Organization of American States would seem to bring to an end Costa Rica’s appeals there. The organization has few ways of enforcing its mandates.

Castro told the session in the morning that Costa Rica considers its sovereignty violated.

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