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Viewing cable 07SANJOSE1451, THE RIO SAN JUAN CONTROVERSY: STILL A SORE POINT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07SANJOSE1451 2007-08-01 22:10 2011-03-08 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2704388.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2704402.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2704436.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-07/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2705536.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1451/01 2132243
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 012243Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
INFO RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA PRIORITY 5024
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAN JOSE 001451 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
WHA/CEN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL KTIA
SUBJECT: THE RIO SAN JUAN CONTROVERSY: STILL A SORE POINT 
IN COSTA RICA - NICARAGUA RELATIONS 
 
 
 (1) SUMMARY: For years, the GOCR and the GON have sought an 
agreement over the controversial interpretation of a treaty 
subscribed by both nations in 1858. This treaty defined 
Nicaraguan sovereignty over the Rio San Juan (which is for 
the most, the border designation of most of Northern Costa 
Rica), while giving the GOCR the right to navigate its waters 
for the purpose of commerce and trade.  Representatives of 
both governments have been trying to clarify in a more 
equitable manner this treaty and the boiling point was 
reached when the GON did not allow GOCR police forces to 
patrol the river for the protection of the Costarican 
population.  After several attempts to resolve this issue, 
the GOCR sued in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 
Le Hague seeking to obtain sovereignty rights over their side 
of the river. The case is currently pending. This controversy 
is exacerbated by the influx of illegal Nicaraguans into 
Costa Rica who are taxing its resources in social services, 
and to whom the population of Costa Rica attributes the 
increased incidence of crime and violence.  The Nicaraguans 
on the other side, feel they are discriminated against and 
have brought claims of discrimination in the International 
Court of Civil Rights.  The controversy is not near an end, 
and in the meantime, relations between the two countries are 
strained.  END SUMMARY. 
 
(2) For some time now, the GOCR took a conciliatory approach 
toward this controversy, fostering dialogue at the highest 
levels.  In the first half of this year, several officials of 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), to include the Bruno 
Stagno, the Minister himself, visited their counterparts in 
Nicaragua and hoped to arrange a presidential meeting to 
resolve the issue.  At some time, these talks seemed to head 
toward a meeting of the heads of state, MFA officials were 
confident that the Rio San Juan controversy would be the main 
topic of the talks. However, as of the end of June all hopes 
of a meeting between them vanished. 
 
(3) The last visit of Stagno to Nicaragua was in late May, 
when he traveled to Rios for the opening of a GOCR consulate 
there.  MFA officiqals did travel during the month of June to 
hold talks with their counterparts.  Additionally, President 
Arias sought to ease the strained ralations by inviting 
several regional presidents to a celebration of the 20 years 
of the signature of the Esquipulas peace treaty which 
effectively ended the Nicaraguan war. The celebration is to 
occur on August 8 in San Jose and so far, all Central 
American presidents have confirmed attendance with the 
exception of President Ortega of Nicaragua.  As the main 
reason for his non-attendance is the planned visit of the 
president of Brazil, Inacio Lula da Silva to Nicaragua on 
August 7. His excused absence has not helped to diffuse the 
already strained relations between the two countries. 
 
(4) On June 28 the ICJ heard the parties and signaled the 
start of the written phase of the process, in which each 
party will have six months (consecutive, starting with the 
plaintiff, Costa Rica) to submit the closing arguments. 
Immediately following that meeting, the Nicaraguan Minister 
of Foreign Affairs, Samuel Santos in a telephone press 
conference announced that they (the partied) had agreed to 
wait until September in order to attempt again a mutually 
agreed resolution to the controversy.  He added that all due 
consideration would be given to Costa Rica for the commercial 
utilization of the river.  The GOCR's response was swift and 
on the 29 of June they announced they would be presenting 
their case to the court without any further negotiations. 
 
(5) A stumbling block in the relations has been the increased 
influence of the President Chavez of Venezuela in the 
industrial and economic fields in Nicaragua.  The GOV has 
awarded sizable credit to Nicaraguan businesses (Promised 
economic help surpasses USD 400 million per year) and the GOV 
has granted USD 32 million of debt relief to Nicaragua. 
Additionally, they are jointly building an oil refinery in 
Nicaraguan soil, capable of processing up to 150,000 barrels 
of Venezuelan oil per day.  Since then, President Ortega has 
been more reluctant to meet his Costarican counterpart and 
has gone as far as to encourage the GOCR to reject the 
CAFTA-DR agreement (of which Nicaragua is already a 
signatory) while offering all the free trade agreement 
advantages to Costarican businesses that relocate to 
Nicaragua. 
 
(6) All of these have not seen with good eyes by the GOCR and 
it seems that the possibility of a mutual agreement 
concerning the Rio San Juan controversy has all but 
disappeared.  Costa Rica, in view of President Ortegas's 
actions is changing his conciliatory approach to a more 
pragmatic, rigid approach, thus favoring the judicial 
resolution at the ICJ of their boundary dispute. 
 
SAN JOSE 00001451  002 OF 002 
 
 
LANGDALE