With the Nicaraguan presidential elections little more than two weeks away, the Ortega administration there is stirring the pot over the Isla Calero.
The Nicaragua general of the armies, Julio César Avilés, revealed Wednesday what he claimed was a plan by Costa Rica to kidnap Sandinista youth who are supposedly doing environmental work in the disputed zone.
Costa Rica quickly seized on the general’s words as proof that Nicaragua has violated the temporary restraining order issued by the International Court of Justice.
There are not supposed to be any Sandinista youth or any other Nicaraguans in the area under terms of the court order.
The Costa Rican foreign ministry said that the general’s words were meant to muddy the waters of the international court case. Unfounded, fictitious and extravagant were the undiplomatic words contained in a statement from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.
The international tribunal in March issued the temporary order that both countries withdraw from the disputed territory. The order also gave Costa Rica limited rights to exercise environmental oversight of the zone.
The Sandinista youth periodically have been coming into Costa Rica’s territory and even have constructed some shacks there. The area is infested with mosquitoes and generally an unattractive place to live. So the suspicion is that the central government of Daniel Ortega sent the young people there to keep the boundary issue in the news during the election campaign. The authoritarian Ortega has made the issue a patriotic one.
The Costa Rican foreign ministry said it would forward the general’s words to the court location in The Hague, Netherlands, as proof that the order has been violated. It said that the general’s statement was a maneuver to justify the placement of Nicaraguan troops in the disputed area.
The foreign ministry also said it did not have the will or desire to become involved in the run-up to the presidential elections.
Nicaragua polls show that Ortega is likely to be the top vote getter with about 28 percent of the ballots cast. Former president Arnoldo Alemán also is on the ballot, as is radio station owner Fabio Gadea Mantilla.
The first round winner needs to have 40 percent of the vote or 35 percent and a 5 percent lead over the closest rival to avoid a runoff.
Nicaraguan troops invaded the area a year ago on the pretext of suppressing drug trafficking. The real reason is an effort to construct a new mouth for the Río San Juan to bypass the winding, silted eastern section of the river. That would open the way for development along the Caribbean coast. A new airport already is being built nearby.
Reports from the area say that a second dredge has joined the work to create a channel to the sea. Locals expect the force of the river to enlarge any channel that is constructed. Already a small channel has been dug nearly across the disputed territory.
Costa Rica claimed in The Hague that the Nicaraguans did extensive environmental damage. But the Costa Rican central government has ignored the area in the past. Now officials are seeking to build a road along the south side of the river because under terms of various treaties, the international boundary is the south bank of the river, and Nicaragua controls access.