Costa Rica: The right to live in peace

Costa Rica: The right to live in peace

Costa Rica is seeking the support of the world to exercise its right to live in peace. The cause of respect for international law and for multilateral organisations as instruments of peace and sovereignty has received an important boost from the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Its immediate effect is to support Costa Rica in its firm yet peaceful struggle against the violation of its territory and sovereignty by Nicaraguan military forces. However, the importance of the OAS decision goes far beyond the situation at hand extending, with hope, throughout the hemisphere.

However, for this decision to translate into reality on the ground, there is also an important barrier to overcome: the intransigence of the Nicaraguan government in refusing to withdraw its troops from Costa Rican territory.

Thus the next matter to be determined by international law and especially by the OAS is how to insure that the invading troops withdraw. If not, the hopes that have been raised could end in failure, with very serious consequences for the OAS and the principle of sovereignty for the countries of the hemisphere.

Majority vote
These hopes were generated by the resolution approved on Friday, November 12, at midnight by the OAS Permanent Council by a margin of 22 votes for, two against, and three abstaining. The text endorses and reiterates the recommendations of the secretary general of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, regarding the conflict.

Since the end of October, Nicaraguan military forces have been present in a part of Calero Island, which lies in the San Juan River, the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The island is undisputed Costa Rican territory, and Costa Rica, as a sovereign country, cannot accept this military occupation in any way.

The secretary general made four recommendations regarding the conflict:

* Reactivate the bilateral meetings between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
* Conclude the process of demarcation of the border between the two countries
* Avoid the presence of military or security forces “in the area where there presence could generate tension”.
* Strengthen mechanisms of cooperation to fight organised crime.

Since the only military forces present in the zone are Nicaraguan, the recommendation clearly calls for their withdrawal, which is being demanded by Costa Rica as well as all the countries that back its position: Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, the United States, Granada, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.
However, in a clear challenge to international law, the OAS, and the countries that backed the resolution, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega has stated that he will not comply with the resolution.

In a long speech given on Saturday, November 13, in Managua, bristling with insults against Costa Rica and other countries, Ortega stated: “As a matter of principle we are not withdrawing from any site along the border zone with Costa Rica”. Which means that Ortega, in addition to disregarding the resolution, even insists on rejecting what his own official Nicaraguan maps recognise: that Calero Island belongs to Costa Rica.

His ambassador to the OAS, Denis Moncada, went even further and, according to the Nicaragua’s ‘Nuevo Diaro’ newspaper, on November 14, “We hold the resolution as being without validity.”

In other words, the Nicaraguan government’s peculiar approach to international law holds as legitimate only that which is in its benefit, and that, therefore, the armed occupation of the territory of another country should be allowed.

Thus the importance of the phase which begins now, after the OAS resolution in support of Costa Rica and international law. The Nicaraguan government must cease its aggression and its confrontational rhetoric and lack of respect. It must accept that which its multilateral commitments and a basic sense of fairness demand.

Our country will not cease in its efforts to bring this about or in its rejection of this violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our cause, with international law on one side and our adhesion to multilateral mechanisms on the other, it at bottom the cause of all Latin Americans.

(The writer is foreign minister of Costa Rica)

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