Foreign minister defends Ruta 1856 as vital to country’s defense

The foreign minister defended the Ruta 1856 project before lawmakers Tuesday. This is the route that the Spanish-language press is calling the worst public works project in the history of Costa Rica.

The foreign minster, Enrique Castillo, did not address the design and construction deficiencies that have launched criminal investigations. Instead, he said that the highway was vital to defend the country against the threats and hostilities of Nicaragua.

The 160-kilometer (99-mile) route parallels the Río San Juan, and Nicaragua has claimed environmental damage due to the work. Castillo said that there was no evidence of this because there was no damage.

In October 2010 Nicaraguan troops took over a part of northern Costa Rica.

“The construction of the frontier road as well as the declaration of national emergency were fully justified in this context,”
said Castillo. It was the declaration of emergency that caused the highway to be built in a rush without environmental studies.

Castillo said that there have been a total of 5,000 Sandinista youth on the disputed land at various times.

He denounced a conspiracy against Costa Rica directed by
Managua to affect the image of the country and distract from the invasion.

Castillo, who is minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, was speaking to the Comisión Permanente Especial de Control de Ingreso y Gasto Público at the legislature.

The road project has been a disaster for the Laura Chinchilla Miranda administration, and the deficiencies in the highway have been presented to the same legislative body by experts.

In addition, newspaper and television reporters have been covering the story fully.

Castillo did not have anything to do with the early stages of the Nicaragua invasion. He has been on the job less than a year.
The case of the invasion is in the International Court of Justice, and Castillo said Nicaragua is ignoring some of the preliminary orders, such as to stay off the disputed area.

Castillo also was critical of a Central American Court of Justice effort to involve itself in the dispute. Costa Rica does not subscribe to that court’s jurisdiction. The court is based in Managua.

Castillo also said that the Costa Rican Embassy in Managua was the country’s first line of defense. Veteran diplomat Javier Sancho Bonilla has been named to head that embassy. Sancho is the current protocol chief and has served in key overseas positions in the past.

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