Former guerrilla leader Edén Pastora, the Nicaraguan government’s point man for the ongoing dredging of the Río San Juan, on Tuesday evening denied accusations by Costa Rican officials that Nicaraguan workers had violated Tico sovereignty by venturing into Costa Rican territory to clear trees along the border river.
Pastora said members of his staff had not cut down forest coverage along the Costa Rican bank of the river, a natural border between the two countries.
According to Pastora, the allegations made this week by Costa Rica were part of a strategy “to make a big fuss” ahead of upcoming hearings at the International Court of Justice over ongoing border disputes.
“I swear before God that none of our workers entered Costa Rican territory,” Pastora said, in a characteristically flamboyant response from the former fighter known as “Comandante Cero,” who helped overthrow the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Pastora called photograph and video evidence taken on Nov. 10 and presented Tuesday by Costa Rica’s ministers of foreign relations and public security a “lie.”
Costa Rican officials on Tuesday publicly accused Nicaragua of removing trees from Costa Rican territory and eroding the riverbank in an effort to widen the San Juan along a 7 kilometer-stretch.
“It’s just another big lie the size of the Irazú Volcano,” Pastora said in several television interviews. “No one is cutting down trees. We’re just cleaning up a river that belongs to Nicaragua. We haven’t touched a single grain of [Costa Rican] sand, nor a branch from a Costa Rican tree. It’s nothing but a bunch of lies made up by Costa Rican politicians because they resent any progress by Nicaragua.”
Pastora said the “lies” were a public relations strategy designed to improve the image of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís. Asked about the photographs and video released by Costa Rican officials, Pastora said it’s impossible to prove the images were filmed in Costa Rican territory.
“A photograph showing one of our employees was taken from an inverse angle so that it looks like he is on the Costa Rican bank of the river. But our Foreign Ministry already confirmed the man was in Nicaragua territory,” Pastora said. He added that [Costa Rican] Foreign Minister González should earn the title of “President of the Liars Club.”
Comandante Cero reiterated an earlier statement by his friend-turned enemy-turned friend President Daniel Ortega that Nicaragua was simply following the world court’s orders.
“Not even 20 ministers or 100 Costa Rican presidents will stop us from maintaining our river. Next year we will send 15 more dredgers, and if we need 20 or 30 more, we will bring them as well.”
In an interview with the San José-based Central American news channel CB24, Pastora was asked about a Nicaraguan worker who appears in a video confirming that he was hired by the Nicaraguan government. Pastora said the man in question “is a Costa Rican faking a Nicaraguan accent.”
“It’s a fake. They’re just playing dirty,” he said.
Photos and video presented to the media at a press conference this week in Costa Rica will be added as new evidence to ongoing cases against Nicaragua at the world court, in the Netherlands, in February.
Watch Pastora’s interview at CB24 (in Spanish):