MANAGUA – Former Sandinista guerrilla leader Edén Pastora is categorically denying that the Nicaraguan Army or any other member of his 80-man river-dredging team has entered Costa Rican territory, as Costa Rican officials claim.
Pastora, who is heading the Nicaraguan government’s efforts to dredge the Río San Juan and restore the Nicaraguan border river to its historic channel to the sea, insists that Costa Rican officials are wrong about where the border lies. In fact, Pastora said in comments to a local Nicaraguan television channel Tuesday afternoon, the Nicaraguan government maps are incorrect in their delineation of the border.
The real border, Pastora insisted, is spelled out in the Cañas-Jerez Treaty of 1858, which he insists proves that the so-called Isla Calero is part of Nicaragua, not Costa Rica. Therefore, Pastora said, it’s not Nicaraguan troops who have invaded Costa Rica, but rather Costa Rican police officers who crossed into Nicaraguan territory.
“The maps are not going to tell me where the borders are, the treaties are,” Pastora told TV channel 100% Noticias.
Pastora, a flamboyant former rebel leader who turned on the Sandinista government in the 1980s and led a counterrevolutionary war from Costa Rica, reconciled with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in 2008, after running against him unsuccessfully for president two years earlier. As part of that reconciliation, Pastora was put in charge of the government’s effort to dredge the San Juan River and return it to its historic route, as specified in the treaties signed 152 years ago.
“We (Nicaraguans) are proud because we are the owners of the Rio San Juan, which in part is true but it’s also a lie because the last 28 kilometers of the river go through Costa Rica,” Pastora told The Nica Times in a 2008 interview. “The Costa Ricans feel like they are the owners of the front door. And the owners of the front door of a house are the owners of the house. So they are the owners of our Rio San Juan.”
Pastora added, “So I have the responsibility to the people of Nicaragua, to the government, and to the party to clean the river and rescue it.”
Still, Pastora insists that in “rescuing the river” he has not set foot inside Costa Rican territory, nor has he dumped any dredged sentiment on Costa Rican soil, as the Tico officials and media contest.
“We haven’t put one drop of sand in Costa Rica,” Pastora said yesterday.
He insisted that the Nicaraguan military troops stationed along the border are there as part of the war on drugs, and have nothing to do with the dredging project.
Indeed, months before the dredging controversy started, Nicaraguan Navy Admiral Róger González told The Nica Times that the border area around Costa Rica’s Barra de Colorado has become a new staging area for narcotraffickers to divide and load drugs into smaller crafts.
Pastora said in response to Costa Rica’s appeal to the Organization of American States (OAS) that the dredging project has shifted directions and is now going up river towards Lake Nicaragua, rather than down river in the contested border area. However, he insisted, the project will continue as soon as the issue is sorted out.
“This will continue undeterred,” he told 100% Noticias.
The Tico Times attempted to interview Pastora Tuesday afternoon, but the usually approachable and chatty former revolutionary said he first had to get authorization from the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry before giving comments to the foreign press.