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Costa Rica, Nicaragua tensions flare over death near border

August 20, 2019

The governments of Costa Rica and Nicaragua are engaged in a diplomatic spat following the Aug. 12 death of Henry Ruiz López in northern Costa Rica.

The Nicaraguan government accused Costa Rican authorities of “excessive force and improper use of firearms” when confronting a group of six Nicaraguans in Upala, Alajuela, approximately 2 km from the countries’ shared border. Ruiz López, 45, died in the incident.

The use of force by Costa Rican police “was not justified” because neither López nor the detainees carried firearms or posed a threat, a letter from Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry said. The government called for “investigations and sanctions.”

The Government of Nicaragua presented its complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Aug. 15.

Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry retaliated with a Monday statement that said Nicaragua is engaged in a “crude and hypocritical campaign” of “false information and unfounded complaints.”

The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry says its authorities had been responding to an alert of smuggling activities on the Niño River when Ruiz López was hurt “in the context of the operation” as he fled after disobeying orders to halt.

“The Costa Rican police immediately called the Red Cross, whose representatives arrived at the site as soon as possible, but in doing so they found that the Nicaraguan national, Henry Ruiz López, had already passed away,” the statement reads.

Nicaragua’s government had alleged Costa Rican authorities had not taken “immediate measures to provide medical care when needed.”

The five other Nicaraguans were transferred to Immigration Police due to their irregular immigration status and have since been returned to Nicaragua, the Foreign Ministry said.

The incident is being investigated by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) of Costa Rica.

“[Costa Rica] calls on the international community to redouble efforts to ensure that the Government of Nicaragua ceases its systematic violations of the human rights of its entire population,” the Foreign Ministry statement reads, “so that eventually the country can resume a democratic path.”

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