Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Tensions heighten between Costa Rica and Nicaragua

Costa Rica's Foreign Minister, Enrique Castillo, announced that his country was forced to shut its consulate in Managua over the weekend following a series of demonstrations against the embassy and its staff. Castillo, who labelled the protestors as “xenophobic”, said that they came up against demonstrators even after relocating to another site outside the capital. Costa Rican residents of Nicoya have a planned a counter-demonstration for tomorrow.
The marches follow news last week that Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega threatened to make a claim, through the ICJ, on the Costa Rican domain of Guanacaste at celebrations marking the 33rd anniversary of Nicaragua's navy. Costa Rica's Ambassador to the UN, Eduardo Ulibarri, responded to the statement some days later on CNN, saying that over a dozen letters had been sent to the UN Security Council in protest at what he deemed to be “constant provocations” by Ortega, saying that the latest was “ disrespectful…from the point of view of Costa Rica's territorial integrity.”
On 14 August, the day after Ortega's naval celebration statement, Nicaragua publicly announced that the Ocean Saratoga, an offshore drilling platform owned by Noble Energy, had initiated drilling the country's first exploratory oil well 168km offshore Bluefields on the Caribbean coast. The exploration, set to finish in mid-November, will drill to a depth of nearly 3.5km. The Latin American neighbours are in a singular position in that they lack any treaty delimiting their maritime borders, despite sharing two coastal areas. Bilateral negotiations began in 2002, but came to an abrupt halt in 2005 after Costa Rica presented a formal request against Nicaragua to the ICJ regarding rights of navigation in the San Juan River, what many have called the “ sanjuanizaciĆ³n” of the bilateral agenda.
Proceedings were then instituted by Costa Rica against Nicaragua in 2010, over the alleged occupation of Costa Rican territory in relation to dredging of the San Juan River. They argue that this activity violated their territorial rights, as spelled out in the 1858 CaƱas-Jerez Treaty and the 1888 Cleveland Award, which awarded ownership of the River to Nicaragua, although commercial navigation rights were afforded to Costa Rica.
The second proceedings were instituted by Nicaragua against Costa Rica in December of the following year, citing “major environmental damages” in its territory resulting from major works, namely the construction of a road on the Costa Rican side of the border. Then, on 6 August 2012, Nicaragua filed four counter-claims in the first case, which were raised objectionably by Costa Rica to the ICJ, as well as Managua's request that the two cases be joined.

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