International court declines to act on border intrusions

The International Court of Justice has declined to take any action regarding Nicaraguan citizens entering and camping out in the disputed Isla Calero area in the extreme northeast part of Costa Rica

The court also said that the road Costa Rica built along the Río San Juan is outside of the scope of the present case that Costa Rica has brought against Nicaragua.

Costa Rica complained to the court that Nicaraguans were entering the disputed territory at the country’s northern border.  NIcaragua responded that the individuals are not government officials or workers and are youthful environmental workers.

The court declined to modify its decision of March 8, 2011, in which it prohibited the governments of both countries from entering the territory except that Costa Rica has the right to send in environmental workers to mitigate any problems.

The decision, released Thursday, did say “the presence of organized groups of Nicaraguan nationals in the disputed area carries the risk of incidents which might aggravate the present dispute.”

This is the case that resulted when Nicaragua claimed Costa Rican territory on the strength of a Google map. Costa Rica declined to remove the intruders by force and, instead, sent the case to the court based in The Hague that has supervision over the treaty that specifies the border between the two countries.

In response to the Nicaragua action, Costa Rica reinforced the border with armed police and also decided to construct a road on the south bank of the river. Previously, the primary means of transportation there was the river, but the entire waterway is in Nicaragua territory.

So the Laura Chinchilla administration decided to construct a 160-kilometer roadway.

The project was considered an emergency and contracts were issued directly without bidding or detailed engineering. The result was a disaster. Investigations are in progress. and contractors have been fired. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes is now in charge of rebuilding the road.

Nicaragua complained about silt and runoff from the new road. The dispute between the two countries has been going on since October 2010 when Nicaraguan soldiers set up camp in the disputed area and workers began to dig a trench.

The theory is that Nicaragua was trying to open up a new mouth to the Río San Juan because the first 40 kilometers of the river from the Caribbean meanders and is silted up. The force of the rivers could easily widen a small ditch into a river channel.

The proposed channel passed through sensitive areas vital to the proliferation of fish and wildlife.

The court case probably will not be concluded before Laura Chinchilla leaves office next May.

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