Case presented by Costa Rica considered to be strong one

Ambassadors Jorge Urbina and Edgar Ugalde sit with René Castro, the Costa Rican foreign minister, at the Hague court session. Photo: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto

President Laura Chinchilla described the country’s showing in the World Court in the Hague as dramatically different than the case put up by Nicaragua. She said Costa Rica presented evidence with maps and fact, but Nicaragua simply tried to argue about the evidence.

It was as if the Nicaraguans were on another planet, she said.

Ms. Chinchilla spoke about the case in San José as the first day of hearings at the court wound down.

Nicaragua’s main arguments were that the border area is not clearly defined so Costa Rica cannot say that Nicaraguans are on its territory. And, they said, Costa Rica always makes a big fuss whenever Nicaraguans try to do work in the river. They dismissed the case as arguing about a strip of swamp.

There seems to be more at stake than that. Nicaragua is rushing three more dredges to the site to continue working on creating a new mouth to the Río San Juan. In addition to environmental damage there, some Costa Rican experts are concerned that silt from the new river mouth and the San Juan might damage fisheries and ocean habitat as far south as Panamá.

That possibility is considered far graver than the destruction of trees and wetland on the controversial Isla Calero.

Nicaragua seems determined to finish the river mouth before the world court can take action, which may be a month away at the least.

Costa Rica is seeking a court order stopping work on the river and the new river mouth.

Costa Rica came armed with maps, charts and air photos taken by a United Nations agency. The maps and the written history of the border between the two countries shows clearly that Nicaragua has encroached on Tico soil. That may be why Nicaragua put up such a negative case.

There are at least two more days of presentations before the court.

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