Nicaraguan presidential elections are Nov. 6, so the Daniel Ortega administration is trying to drum up more patriotism. Members of his Sandinista youth movement have set up camp on the disputed Isla Calero in the face of an International Court of Justice prohibition.
The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto distributed photos of the incursion Wednesday. The youth appear to have set up shacks on the island’s side of the Río San Juan.
The dispute began in October when Ortega associate Eden Pastora directed an effort to construct a new mouth for the river through the island.
Costa Rica brought the situation before the Organization of American States and then to the international court in The Netherlands. The court has not issued a final ruling but did instruct both countries to keep off the disputed land. There is a question if such a ruling applies to young citizens who have no official standing.
There is little doubt that the Isla Calero is Costa Rican property. It is on the south side of the main channel of the river and has been considered Costa
Rican land even by Nicaragua as late as a 2007 International Court of Justice case.
Two weeks ago Ortega suggested a joint patrol of the area, but Costa Rica rejected that idea.
Costa Rica reinforced its police presence near the island but has backed off on constructing a road network that would make the area more accessible.
The south bank of the river is the international border, not the middle, so Nicaragua can control passage on the river. The Costa Rican government has filed a protest with Managua over the new intrusion. Apparently the youth camp has been operating for at least 10 days but the government only announced the fact Wednesday.
Some Ortega opponents in Nicaragua are concerned that the work on the river, disguised as a dredging project, was never subject to the governmental bidding process as the law requires. The $2.5 million for the project is believed to come from Venezuela.
There also is concern that the project is not to develop the San Juan as a transport route but to create a location for an expensive marina for foreign interests in which Ortega and the director of river operations, Pastora, will share.