Costa Rica protests Nicaragua’s occupation of borderland

‘Camp Harbour Head’ continues to get under Tico’s skin

The Costa Rican government today emitted yet another diplomatic missive expressing its “energetic protest” of Nicaragua’s continued occupation of a disputed alluvial holm claimed by both countries on the southern bank of the Río San Juan.

The Tico government this afternoon sent another letter of protest to the Nicaraguan Embassy in San José complaining that members of the Sandinista Youth are now building a barbwire fence around the disputed island, which Nicaraguan claims as Harbour Head and Costa Rica claims as Isla Calero.

Costa Rica noted that it has been two years since the Tico government first denounced Nicaragua’s alleged “military invasion of Costa Rican territory” and a year and a half since the International Court of Justice ordered both countries to withdraw personnel from the disputed zone as a provisional measure.

Since that time, Nicaragua has maintained a constant presence on the island with a Sandinista youth camp (see report on Camp Harbour Head) that operates under the guise of an environmental field camp.

“In recent days, my government has detected Nicaraguan citizens who, under the sponsorship and control of the Nicaraguan government, have maintained a constant presence in that zone and have now built a barbwire fence with makeshift posts all along the artificial canal,” reads the diplomatic letter sent today by Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo. “This recent work build inside the territory where the International Court has issued provisional measures is another flagrant violation of the Court’s orders.”

Quality Craftsmanship: Costa Rica is complaining about a fence that looks like it is already falling down on its own (photo/ Costa Rica Foreign Ministery)

While the construction built by the Sandinista Youth is hardly a remarkable piece of craftsmanship (indeed in one photo it looks like part of the wooden-post fence has already fallen on its own accord), Costa Rica is crying foul.

“In light of this, the Government of Costa Rica presents its most energetic protest against the Government of Nicaragua for [the fence] and for its policy of systematically disrespecting the International Court’s order, which is causing great damage to the mutual understanding and harmony between both countries.”

This is the second time in the past month that Costa Rica has accused Nicaragua of deliberately violating the Court’s orders. On Oct. 1, Foreign Minister Castillo delivered a speech before the UN General Assembly in New York in which he accused Nicaragua of acting “in open defiance of the Court, to the detriment of our bilateral relations, and in violation of paragraph 31 of the Final Declaration of the Rule of Law that was adopted one week ago by this Assembly.”

The Sandinista government insists the land belongs to Nicaragua and that they don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to be there.


  • Ken

    I’m siding with the Ticos here, even as in the bigger picture I’m with Nicaragua on this issue. There’s no other way to dice this than one which shows Nicaragua to be in intentional violation of the court, even though it recognizes the court’s authority and promised to abide by its rulings. Not good, Nicaragua.

  • Carlos Briones

    The International Court is a paper tiger. It has no verifiable way to enforce its rulings; no army to punish those who fail to follow its orders and nothing with which to economically sanction: a paper tiger.

    As history dictates, this type of minutia is what politicians feed the populace for no other reason but to drive their hidden agenda. The swamp is a non-issue. Bluntly, no one gives a rat’s tushie about the calero/harbor head swamp. Except those who would most benefit from a full-blown ethnocentric campaign against nicas in San Jose and the rhetoric tico-hating of Managua.

    In the end, neither the International Court uselessness nor the visceral misplaced spoon-fed patriotism by the current rulers will resolve this issue, but time.

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