Ms. Chinchilla seeks help from above on Isla Calero

President Chinchilla stands with the archbishop at the end of Sunday Mass. Photo: Casa Presidencial

With a decision expected early Tuesday from the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, President Laura Chinchilla sought help from a higher power Sunday. She attended Mass at the Catedral Metropolitana and heard Archbishop Hugo Barrantes ask for peace here and in Nicaragua.

Casa Presidencial, also Sunday, released a sometimes sarcastic reply that the president made to her counterpart in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega Saavedra. Ortega Saturday asked Ms. Chinchilla to join him at the border to receive the news from the court Tuesday.

Ms. Chinchilla said that she was pleased that the note from Ortega said officially that his government will abide by the decision of the international court. Costa Rica is seeking what amounts to a restraining order against further dredging and waterway construction on the Isla Calero, where Nicaraguan troops invaded in October. Any decision may be too late because Nicaragua already has punched through a new mouth for the Río San Juan that can only be enlarged by continuous river flow.

“Next Tuesday we await with serenity the decision of the International Court of Justice,” said Ms. Chinchilla in the letter. “I will do it together with my people who freely elected me and to whom I render accounts every day with transparency and serenity as in all democracies.”

The president made reference to transparency and democracy several times, clearly a criticism of Ortega and his authoritarian regime.

Ms. Chinchilla also said that after the court decision she was hoping that the countries of México and Guatemala would help in the process of normalizing relations.

The Chinchilla administration has taken steps to reinforce security around the Nicaraguan Embassy on Avenida Central in San José. During the entire conflict with Nicaragua, officials here have been aware of the substantial Nicaraguan population, both legal and illegal, of Costa Rica.

They go out of the way to promise fair dealings and just treatment to all residents. In her letter, Ms. Chinchilla said that Ortega has distorted the message given by beefed up security. She said she was not surprised that he did so.

In the cathedral Sunday Ms. Chinchilla sat alone to the right side of the altar. Her husband was with the rest of the congregation.

She also appeared on television to give her weekly message and mentioned the Tuesday decision. Although Costa Rica expects a favorable decision, courts are unpredictable, and Nicaragua fashioned a creative defense.

The Río San Juan is Nicaraguan territory, and the international border is the south bank. Ortega wants to open up a new river mouth because the existing meandering channel is heavily silted. A new mouth would mean new life for the Río San Juan with transportation and tourism. Costa Rica is outraged at the environmental destruction the work has caused.

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