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Costa Rica installs airfield on border with Nicaragua to reinforce coronavirus surveillance

April 22, 2020

Costa Rica installed an airfield in its northern zone to control the passage of people across the border with Nicaragua, a country that has not adopted measures against the new coronavirus, authorities reported on Friday.

The aerodrome aims to strengthen control of the 300 km border with Nicaragua, said Costa Rican vice president Epsy Campell.

“We want to reassure citizens that everything in our power is being done” to control the border area, Campbell said.

“The number of officers we regularly have at the border has multiplied by a lot and it is going to multiply a lot more. We have surveillance at strategic points in the border area,” she added.

Campbell visited the northern area together with the Public Security Minister, Michael Soto, to inspect the border control operation, at a time when there is traditionally a great movement between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

San José has expressed its concern over the inaction of Managua regarding the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Nicaraguan government has kept its borders open and has even called for festive demonstrations and congregations — even as the rest of the world embraces social isolation.

Soto indicated that the new airfield is located at the Las Tablillas border crossing, near the San Juan river, a Nicaraguan tributary that defines much of the border between the two countries.

“Costa Ricans must have a guarantee and security for the work that we are carrying out,” Soto said.

“Taking care of every meter by meter is complicated, but we are making the maximum effort,” Soto added.

According to Soto, the throughput of Nicaraguans during Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) was less than normal for the season.

The Costa Rican government announced that it will not permit re-entry of resident foreigners who leave the country during the emergency caused by COVID-19. Residents who enter Costa Rica illegally will have their residency status canceled.

Costa Rica reports that between 400,000 and 500,000 Nicaraguans transit regularly between the two countries.

Update: A previous version of this story said Costa Rica had created an “air base,” which implies the operation of military aircraft. Costa Rica does not have a military, so we corrected the story to indicate this is an airfield. 

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