Heavy rains may have changed geography of Río San Juan

Nicaraguan flag and workmen are along the ditch dug on the Isla Calero in this November photo. Photo: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto

While President Laura Chinchilla sought support opposing the Nicaraguan invasion, heavy flooding took place at the Río San Juan and adjacent waterways.

There is speculation in northeastern Costa Rica that the flooding San Juan ripped though a hand-dug ditch to create a new mouth to the river. There has been no report of that taking place from Costa Rican officials, and private flights over the Isla Calero where the Nicaraguan army set up camp are prohibited.

The new mouth for the river was the point of Nicaraguan operations there. They had been characterized as a dredging operation, and dredges are expected to enlarge the new channel after the river has done its work.

Workmen dug the trench from the south bank of the river into the environmentally sensitive Portillos lagoon. This has generated concerns among many academics in other parts of the world as well as in Costa Rica.

Ms. Chinchilla was at the 20th summit of Latin American leaders in Mar del Plata, Argentina. She stressed that Costa Rica, lacking a standing army, seeks to defend its right to live in peace.

Ms. Chinchilla held a number of one-on-one meetings with other leaders, and the summit issued a statement supporting democracy and opposing any effort to destroy the democratic institutions of a country or any attempted coups.

Among those meeting with Ms. Chinchilla was José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States. The organization has called for Nicaragua and Costa Rica to move any troops from the disputed zone, but Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega rejected the request and said his country may pull out of the hemispheric organization.
The new river channel is expected to be a factor in the efforts to increase tourism in the Nicaraguan river.

The flooding was prompted by the same low pressure area that caused damage in Costa Rica, killed at least one man and drove 2,000 from their homes.

Reports Friday from Barra del Colorado, which is on the Río Colorado not far from the disputed island, said that water was up to three feet in the main street and that flooding had reached the local airport runway. That was said to be something that never had happened.

Also flooded was the local school where Fuerza Pública officers have made a headquarters to keep an eye on the Nicaraguan threat. They also use the school as living quarters.

The weather was good Sunday, but there is no report if Costa Rican observers flew over the canal site.

Barra del Colorado residents are quick to counter any suggestion that the river cannot plow its own channel. They tell recent stories of a youngster playing with a soup spoon who caused another nearby waterway to change its course.

The new river channel, if it exists, will enable ships to enter the Río San Juan and avoid the meandering stretch that now links the main channel with the Caribbean. NIcaragua also plans to build a new airport at San Juan de Nicaragua, which is just north of the present river channel. There also are plans for a major dam on the river upstream.

An Israeli newspaper has reported that Iran is involved with Venezuela in helping Nicaragua construct a canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific. The San Juan provides access to Lake Nicaragua.

The northwest shore of the lake is just a few miles from the Pacific at Rivas.

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