Río San Juan story said to be biased and skewed

Sorry, but I couldn’t let your article Monday on the border dispute pass without commenting on the biases I detect in it. Were it run as an editorial, that would be fine, but as a news article I find it skewed. Should Nicaragua prevail on key points of its case, I even believe that you should publish a retraction. You’re assuming a lot of facts that remain in dispute and spinning others in favor of Costa Rica.

Indeed, the gist of the story — [René] Castro’s public relations tour — could easily be spun against Costa Rica. Faced with a weak case, it could be inferred that Castro is trying to whip up world opinion to influence the court, and is at minimum just spending Tico tax dollars to whine to the world while positioning Costa Rica as the victim. If Costa Rica is so sure it is right, why doesn’t it trust the court to rule in its favor? It appears that Costa Rica is finding out that it isn’t as right as it believed it was so is trying to make an end run around the court.

Anyway, eight points came to mind when I read your story. Here is what you wrote in quotes and why I find that biased:

1. ”René Castro, the foreign minister, is in Spain today seeking Spanish support as Costa Rica continues to seek relief from the Nicaraguan invasion at the Isla Calero.”

“Relief” from an “invasion” is a one-sided opinion. Nicaragua doesn’t believe it’s an “invasion” and neither did the Organization of American States agree that it is. We won’t know whether it is or not until the Court decides. At this point, Castro is mounting a global public relations campaign to persuade world opinion to take Costa Rica’s side, and perhaps even to influence the World Court. “Relief” sure spins this in Costa Rica’s favor.

2. ”the Nicaraguan regime”

Would not “the Nicaraguan government” or just “Nicaragua” be a less prejudicial phrasing? “Regime” has negative connotations, and I doubt you’d write “the Costa Rican regime.”

3. ”Nicaragua appears to have presented a case much stronger than expected.”

Expected by whom? Nicaraguans always believed they had a strong case, which they do. It was really just naïve Costa Rica and those they have influenced (like the Washington Post) who expected Nicaragua’s case to be weak.

4. ”Nicaragua is seeking to install a direct mouth of the river to the Caribbean to circumvent the existing meandering river course. That will open the river to tourism and for development in the adjacent area.”

This would seem to be speculation on your part and should be labeled as such. Publicly Nicaragua seems to be saying that it is merely dredging the river and, as I understand it, all court documents are not open to the public. What Nicaragua’s objectives are remains speculation.

5. ”Those who live in the northern area fear that a mouth of the Río San Juan sufficient to shipping will divert water from the Río Colorado, which is totally in Costa Rican territory.”

Yes it is in Costa Rican territory, but one of the issues is that Costa Rica diverted water from the Rio San Juan to the Rio Colorado, so the question becomes whether Nicaragua has the right to recapture the water diverted by Costa Rica. To imply that because a river is located in Costa Rica that Costa Rica has rights to its water flow is to misrepresent the dispute in favor of Costa Rica.

6. ”The Nicaraguan invasion”

Here we go again. You’re calling it an “invasion” before we know whether or not it is.

7. ”has given Costa Rican officials an incentive to beef up the security of the border.”

This is an awfully polite way of describing Costa Rica’s militarization of the border. Might we say that all Nicaragua has done is to have “beefed up its security”?

8 “The Costa Rican Defensoría de los Habitantes traveled to the area and reported on difficulties that police have in patrolling the zone.”

“Difficulties” or “negligence”? The court ordered Costa Rica to contribute to the security of the region, and Costa Rica responded by stationing two or three cops there in a hut with, as I recall, inadequate transportation. You might as well join Costa Rica’s defense team if you want to present this irresponsible flouting of a court order in terms of the “difficulties” Costa Rica has had patrolling the area. Indeed, the excuse of “difficulties” doesn’t fly when you look at how quickly Costa Rica managed to send soldier-cops there after it alleged Nicaragua had invaded. Costa Rica doesn’t have “difficulties” patrolling the area now!

Ken Morris
San Pedro

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