Ticos count on court, but Nicaragua bets on river

Costa Rica has a date next Oct. 14 with the International Court of Justice seeking a cease and desist order against Nicaragua. But the result of the Nicaraguan dredging might be provided by nature, something the court cannot command.

The central government said Tuesday that a quick hearing by the court based in the Hague was a good sign. Costa Rica complained when officials realized last month that two canals had been dug and dredged from a bend in the Río San Juan to the Caribbean.

The foreign ministry said Tuesday that Costa Rica seeks to order Nicaragua to clear out of the disputed area and abstain from using any equipment there and authorize Costa Rica to take steps to avoid irreparable damage.

According to those who live in the area, the stage already is set for the Río San Juan to blast a wide mouth into the Caribbean Sea.

The twin channels are only to guide the force of the river, which is being augmented by the rainy season. Residents in the area have a lot of experience with the way rivers can create their one course.

The parallel canals were constructed so that the river would remove the soil between them as it surged to the sea.

October and November are usually the months with the most rain both in Costa Rica and in Nicaragua.

Costa Rica also said that it was seeking a visit from the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

Nicaragua will be entering the International court session at a disadvantage, having violated many of the provisions ordered temporarily by the court. The world judicial body has not ruled officially on Costa Rica’s claim that Nicaragua has invaded its territory. But the court ordered both countries to stay off the disputed land.

Obviously Nicaragua has not done this.

Eventually the court can order monetary damages against Nicaragua or mandate other measures. Any final judgement can be blocked by any permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

The consequences of Nicaragua’s actions will not be known until the rainy season ends. The Río Colorado is really a second mouth of the river well within Costa Rica. Some along that waterway think that a new mouth to the Río San Juan will have harmful effects on their river.

A new river mouth would cut off a piece of Costa Rica because the treaty setting the border of the two countries says the dividing line is the south bank of the river.  Of course the International Court can modify this treaty if it appears that Nicaragua has acted illegally.  But no court can change the course of the river.

The initial Nicaragua invasion was two years ago. The speculation at the time was that Nicaragua wanted to create a new river mouth to bypass the winding current mouth to the Caribbean that is heavily silted. Then the country could offer land to international developers to build hotels and marinas that would have quick access to the Caribbean.

As one reader pointed out, by making the mouth of the river lower in latitude, Nicaragua also gains extensive maritime holdings that might be rich in petroleum.

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