Old border dispute heats up between Nicaragua, Costa Rica

Miami HeraldNovember 6, 2010 

MANAGUA -- An aging border dispute over a jungle river dividing Nicaragua and Costa Rica has led to a standoff between heavily armed state security forces on a remote river island claimed by both nations.

Costa Rica claims that Nicaragua's efforts to dredge the San Juan River, a Nicaraguan waterway that parallels the border between the two countries, has ``flagrantly'' crossed into Costa Rican territory.

It's a claim Nicaragua categorically denies.

In an address to the nation, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla accused the Nicaraguan Army of occupying a swath of Costa Rican territory called Isla Calero, a large and uninhabited river island in a remote area 18.6 miles inland from the Caribbean Sea.

Chinchilla called Nicaragua's alleged military incursion an act of "aggression'' against a country without an army and rapidly deployed Costa Rican police armed with military-grade weapons to the contested area.

The president claims Nicaraguan soldiers have built field camps, felled trees, dumped river silt and hoisted the Nicaraguan flag over Costa Rican territory.

"This is a serious violation of our sovereignty and our territorial integrity,'' she said.

Nicaragua's Sandinista government, meanwhile, claims Costa Rica has invaded its territory. President Daniel Ortega, in his own address to the nation this week accused Costa Rica of threatening Nicaragua with "elite troops'' dressed like "Rambo.''

Though Costa Rica officially has no military, its annual defense budget is nearly three times that of Nicaragua.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua both point to the same historic documents -- the 1858 Cañas-Jerez Treaty and a subsequent clarification of that treaty from 1888 -- as evidence to support their interpretations of where the border lies.

But the original treaty describes the frontier in a wordy, seven-page description of landmarks and wandering coordinates -- all written in longhand.

Read the full story at MiamiHerald.com

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