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Viewing cable 07SANJOSE1768, COSTA RICA AND NICARAGUA: UNEASTY NEIGHBORS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07SANJOSE1768 2007-09-24 22:10 2011-03-08 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL 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
VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1768/01 2672238
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 242238Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8935
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO PRIORITY 1560
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0758
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 001768 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2017 
TAGS: CS NU PGOV PREF PREL XK
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA AND NICARAGUA: UNEASTY NEIGHBORS 
 
Classified By: DCM PETER BRENNAN PER 1.5(d) 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY: Costa Rican-Nicaraguan relations remain 
strained from a GOCR perspective. This was only slightly 
improved by Presidents Arias and Ortega meeting in Managua on 
August 21, although Arias reportedly returned with a written 
commitment from Ortega to support Costa Rica,s UNSC election 
in October. Ortega,s ties to Venezuela,s Hugo Chavez and 
his interest in poaching business from Costa Rica should 
CAFTA not be ratified here have not helped.  The 
long-standing Rio San Juan dispute and concerns about 
Nicaraguan immigration also color GOCR thinking.  As long as 
the two historic contenders remain in office, bilateral 
relations will remain cool and correct at best, but the GOCR 
will continue working to keep relations as "normal" as 
possible.  END SUMMARY. 
 
OLD CONCERNS; OLD RIVALS 
======================== 
 
2. (SBU) Two familiar and long-standing reasons continue to 
cloud Costa Rican-Nicaraguan relations.  One is the Rio San 
Juan controversy, which is now in the hands of the 
International Court of Justice.  The other is the continued 
migration to Costa Rica of Nicaraguans, which may number as 
many as 500,000, nearly half probably illegal.  Costa Ricans 
also continue to blame Nicaraguan immigrants (unjustly) for 
the rise in the rate of violent crime and insist that 
Nicaraguans take jobs from Costa Ricans. 
 
3. (C) Added to these ingredients is the chilly personal 
relationship between the two presidents. As Antonio Alarcon, 
FM Stagno,s COS describes it, the two leaders are simply 
"carrying too much historical baggage" for bilateral ties to 
improve much, as long as they are both in office.  Sergio 
Ugalde and Arnold Brenes, the MFA,s veterans Nicaragua 
watchers, claim that Ortega still resents Arias for taking 
all the credit for the Esquipulas peace accords in 1986 and 
for contributing to Ortega,s electoral defeat in 1990. 
 
4. (C) According to Alarcon, Arias believes he has made his 
mark in Central America, so his current foreign policy focus 
is broader, more global.  The president is therefore not 
giving as much attention to immediate regional issues.  The 
one exception is Panama, a neighbor "carrying less baggage" 
and therefore more receptive to improved relations with Costa 
Rica.  "Things are done differently there," Alarcon said 
(i.e., easier than with Nicaragua).  He indicated improved 
ties with Panama would remain an Arias administration 
priority. 
 
NEW WORRIES 
=========== 
 
5. (C) Alarcon recalls that Ortega had considerable public 
support within Costa Rica in the 1980,s.  Any vestige of 
that support today is being eroded by concerns that Ortega is 
deliberately courting businesses to leave Costa Rica should 
CAFTA not be ratified here. (COMMENT:  Althought we have seen 
no signs of active Gov,t recruitment in Costa Rica, we 
continue to hear anecdotal information from investors and 
business people confirming this. END COMMENT.)  Ortega,s 
"unpredictability," supporting CAFTA one day and ALBA the 
next, plus his "parroting" of Hugo Chavez, words and 
policies, also trouble Costa Ricans in and out of government, 
according to Alarcon.  Ugalde and Brenes agree, adding that 
Nicaragua,s opening with Iran, continued close ties to Cuba, 
and potential interest in re-arming and further militarizing 
worry the GOCR. 
 
MEETING IN MANAGUA: LET,S GET IT OVER WITH 
===================================== 
 
6. (C) When finally Arias and Ortega met in Managua on August 
21st, Arias,s visit to Managua in August, arranged by 
Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo to celebrate the 20th 
anniversary of the Esquipulas accords, was thus in a "let,s 
get this over with" vein, Alarcon said.  The GOCR had reached 
out several times before to schedule a summit, other MFA 
sources told us, but all turned into a kabuki dance of 
cancellations or "indefinite" postponements.  Despite 
cabinet-level visits, including by FM Stagno June 14-15 to 
inaugurate the Costa Rica consulate in Rivas, and subsequent 
visits at the end of June by MFA Nicaraguan desk personnel, 
the GOCR made little progress in getting the two leaders 
together.  Then, Ortega snubbed Arias by declining to attend 
the Esquipulas commemoration in San Jose on August 7. 
 
7.  (C) Arias expected some sort of Ortega "show," and 
gritted his teeth to put up with it, Alarcon told us. (In 
this case it was Ortega announcing only the day before that 
he would meet privately with Arias, then picking him up at 
the airport and driving him in his own vehicle to their 
meeting venue.)  Arias,s public remarks were deliberately 
flowery, in an effort to reach out to the Nicaraguan people. 
 
ONE TAKEAWAY: PLEDGE OF UNSC ELECTION SUPPORT 
========================================= 
 
8. (C) Little came from the August 21 meeting, nor did the 
GOCR expect much, according to Alarcon.  The binational 
commission will resume meeting, and Ortega is supposed to 
make a reciprocal visit to Costa Rica sometime between 
November 2007 and January 2008.  The commission meetings are 
to resume with a session in Managua in the second quarter of 
2008, with immigration, border development and Central 
American integration on the agenda.  The MFA reports, 
however, that Ortega did provide Arias a written (and 
not-publicized) commitment of Nicaraguan support for Costa 
Rica,s UNSC election in October. 
 
A LOCAL NICARAGUAN VIEW 
======================= 
 
9. (C) Nicaraguan Ambassador Harold Rivas confirmed to us 
that the Binational Commission will resume late this year or 
early in 2008, and that Ortega is to participate.  Rivas 
cautioned that this does not signal the dawning of improved 
bilateral relations, but it does underscore a willingness to 
begin to work towards improvement.  Looking ahead, Rivas 
pointed to gradually increasing Nicaraguan migration to El 
Salvador (because of CAFTA-fueled growth) and Panama (because 
of the new canal construction) in pursuit of better paying 
jobs.  If this trend continues, migration to Costa Rica and 
all its attendant problems might be eased, and relations 
improved, he predicted. 
 
COMMENT 
======= 
 
10. (C) The GOCR seems to be maintaining low expectations for 
relations with Nicaragua.  Historical and personal 
entanglements, primarily those between Ortega and Arias, will 
continue to complicate the picture.   Personal relations 
between the two old rivals are unlikely to be warm, 
especially as they both seek to adjust to a region that has 
changed significantly since their heyday in the 1980,s. 
Their initial meeting may have opened the way for some 
thawing in official relations between the two countries, but 
we expect relations overall to remain cool and correct. 
 
LANGDALE 
LANGDALE