During these ominous days for the relations between our peoples, I would like to issue a call to prudence on both sides of our common border. A stupid border dispute promoted by two of the worst Administrations our peoples have seen in a long time, has grown out of proportion to the point where expressions of mutual resentment have been issued by – undesirable, I suspect – members of our respective societies.
First of all, please accept, my Nicaraguan (nica) brothers, the apologies of a Costa Rican citizen (tico) who feels nauseated by the inhuman lack of action of a handful of Costa Rican policemen the day of the death of José Natividad Canda. I can assure you that beyond the racist expressions of a few individuals who do not represent the Costa Rican society, the majority in this country feels that what happened that day was unacceptable and that those responsible will have to be punished in the manner provided by the law. A human being was subjected to torture for two hours, under the joyful watch of a few crass individuals and a few policemen who do not deserve to wear their uniform, and that is unforgivable. “The lad shouldn’t have been there,” they say. “The man had a criminal record”. Yes, it is true, but it is also irrelevant. The death penalty does not exist in our country, and much less the (legal) possibility to take justice in our own hands. Natividad Canda was a human being who traveled the wrong path, but because of that not less deserving of our compassion. It doesn’t matter whether he was Nicaraguan, black, Chinese, Jewish or gringo; whether he was a thief of an elementary-school teacher.
Please understand that in Costa Rica we have a legal system that works fairly well. It is sometimes slower than we would like, but in the end justice prevails. Those heartless individuals who, having had the opportunity to act to save Mr. Canda’s life didn’t do it, will have to face justice and pay for their actions and/or their omissions. Their faces were caught on video.
I beg our northern neighbors not to take this heinous incident out of context. The death of Natividad Canda was not the product of any persecution of ticos against nicas, after all the man got himself into the situation by trespassing into private property. Sadly, the Costa Rican authorities have been losing the grip on security in our country, and violent crime has become a staple in our daily lives. I invite you to check any of our local newspapers on any random day to verify this. It is not a matter of ticos against nicas, it is a matter of criminals against citizens of good will. Crime does not discriminate: both perpetrators and victims are ticos and nicas, all at once.
Regarding the San Juan river, please be assured that we ticos do not wish to make it our possession. Please understand that we have a wretch of a government that isn’t capable of handling a simple worker’s strike, much less could we expect it to know how to handle the relations with our neighbors. That you have a wretch of a government that isn’t capable of dealing with its (former) supporters; much less could we expect it to know how to deal with your neighbors. That ticos and nicas are still neighbors, friends, brothers, in spite of the imaginary conflicts that result out of the incompetence of our governments. Don’t be swayed by the opportunistic rhetoric of your political leaders of the day; you know full well that Costa Rica doesn’t have an army and it poses no real threat to Nicaragua.
It is true that Costa Rica claims navigation rights in the San Juan. Of course; but that doesn’t hide any secret pretension of ownership of the river. It is necessary that we achieve mutual recognition of the fact that our border strip is mostly covered by jungle, and that the river represents the only means of communication and is the lifeline for the residents of the area. Whether Costa Rica’s police have the right to navigate the river armed, let the International Court of Justice in The Hague decide it. For it is a matter of international law, not of the daily relationship between two peoples. But please understand that, when Costa Rica decides to resort to the International Court, it does so seeking a peaceful solution to a conflict that over the course of more than seven years, four different Administrations, two each from Nicaragua and Costa Rica, haven’t been able to resolve. We ticos know that the resolutions of that tribunal are binding; the possibility exists that the resolution will be contrary to the interests of our government. But that is better than keeping the conflict alive for ever and ever.
In the past few weeks I have addressed a couple of open letters to the political “leaders” of Nicaragua. Both were written in sarcastic style, ridiculing their turpitude just as I ridicule the turpitude of our own President (and his Cabinet) on an almost daily basis from these pages. I ask of you, my Costa Rican and Nicaraguan brothers, that we learn to differentiate what is a rift between politicians from what should be the normal relations between two sibling peoples. Abel Pacheco and Enrique Bolaños will soon be out of the political scene (and I can’t thank God enough for that); we, the common citizens, will be around for quite awhile longer.
That we have and will have differences, I have no doubt about it. Let’s learn to respect and value those things that make us unique, and let us place more importance on those that we have in common. Lets live in peace, in an environment of mutual respect and good neighborly relations. Lets make sure that our children don’t even get to know about resentment and hatred between our peoples, for we are brothers.