Outspoken former guerrilla hero Edén “Comandante Cero” Pastora says Costa Ricans who are celebrating Nicaragua’s decision to build its inter-oceanic canal further north of the San Juan River are “ignorant” because their country only stands to lose by pushing shipping traffic away from its border.
“Costa Rica loses with this move—they are going to miss out on tourism, economic development and port infrastructure,” Pastora told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an interview this afternoon. “If Costa Ricans are happy because the canal is going to be built further north of the border, it’s because their xenophobia is bigger than Irazú Volcano.”
Pastora said the original plan of widening the Río San Juan into the hemisphere’s second inter-oceanic canal would have brought massive bi-national development to the border region between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The Río San Juan route—on of six proposed alternatives for the Nicaraguan Canal—would have converted part of Costa Rica’s Sarapiquí River into a lake, finally giving Costa Rica “its own great lake,” Pastora said, alluding to Costa Rica’s perceived historical aspirations to appropriate Nicaragua’s Lake Cocibolca.
“But now they lose all that. So if any Costa Ricans are happy about the decision, it’s because they are ignorant,” Pastora said.
Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry this week expressed its approval with Nicaragua’s decision to not pursue plans to use the Río San Juan as the proposed route for the inter-oceanic canal. On May 13, Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry wrote a diplomatic missive to its Costa Rican counterpart explaining that based on preliminary studies conducted by the Chinese company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd, the Sandinista government has decided to forgo plans to build the canal along their border river, and instead pursue an unspecified alternative route “in the north of the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS).”
Sandinista authorities, who have been developing the early phases of Nicaragua’s canal plans with the same secrecy that characterizes all their business dealings, promised to inform Costa Rica about the exact canal route “when the time comes.”
Pastora, meanwhile, thinks Nicaragua’s time finally has come after centuries of ventose and delusional talk about building a canal, which is now estimated to cost $35 billion—or three times more than Nicaragua’s Gross Domestic Product. The scope of the project may seem unlikely in a country like Nicaragua, but Pastora is confident the world would be a better place with second canal across Central America.
“It sounds like a lot of money for a small country like ours, but for the rest of the world—China, Japan, Russia, the U.S., Korea, and Europe—$30 billion is peanuts,” said the former guerilla leader, who has been spearheading the Sandinista government’s river dredging efforts along the border with Costa Rica.
“The stars are finally aligning for us to build the canal,” Pastora said. “And as sure as the sun shines, it will happen.”