See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Nicaragua-Costa Rica Conflict, Revisited: Part II

This is the second part of a trip through the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican blogosphere regarding a recent border dispute. See the first part of this report here.

Nationalism in the media

The nationalist agenda has been heightened in the media on both sides of the border. On the Costa Rican side (the tico side as it is locally known) we have the example of the TV channel Repretel [es], with commentary from Cristian Cambronero in Fusil de Chispas [es]:

Probablemente no existe escenario más fértil para el sensacionalismo, que el fantasma de un conflicto armado con “un país agresor”.

En general, la cobertura, desde el lado tico, ha sido sensata y libre de (grandes) polvorines alboroteros. Hasta este jueves, cuando Repretel decidió levantar la bandera como si en lugar de periodismo informativo, hicieran porrismo emotivo. El llamado es a sacar las banderas “para expresar nuestro repudio”. Se leyeron editoriales en sus noticieros de televisión (6 y 11) y en sus emisoras de radio (Reloj y Monumental), y en la edición estelar de Noticias Repretel el set apareció forrado en tricolor […] ¿Es ese el rol que le corresponde a los informadores en un contexto como el actual? Quizá el detalle más curioso es que el grupo al que pertenece Repretel ¡también es propietario de canales de televisión en Nicaragua!

There probably is not a more fertile ground for sensationalism than the fantasy of an armed conflict with an “aggressor nation”.

In general, the coverage from the Costa Rican side has been low-key and peaceful. Until this Thursday, when Repretel [es] decided to raise the flag instead of using informative journalism, people became emotional. The point of this was to “to express our disgust”. Reports were read on their news bulletins [es] (6 and 11) and on their radio stations [es] (Reloj and Monumental), and on the special edition of Repretel news, the set appeared covered in the three colours of the flag […] What is the role of informers in contexts like this? Maybe the strangest detail is that the group that Repretel belongs to also owns Nicaraguan TV channels! [es]

Oscar Cruz from Costa Rica comments [es]:

Creo que esta campaña es una apuesta oportunista para poder ganar empatía de la audiencia en general, ya no solo de las personas marginadas por la brecha tecnológica en sus casas, victimizadas por la televisión nacional de señal abierta, sino también en el social media, espacio en el que los medios industriales han pujado duro recientemente.

I believe that this campaign is an opportunist bet to win the empathy of the general public, not just for those people marginalised by the technological gap in their homes, victimised by open signal national television but also in the social media, an area in which the industrial media have recently bid up a great deal.

But the Nica side (Nicaragua) is not staying behind. The official portal El 19 Digital dedicates its front page to the “defence of peace and sovereignty”.

A means of communication that breaks the fine line between nationalism and fanaticism was Canal 15, which even received insults on its official Twitter account.

El Infierno en Costa Rica [es], (also referred to on Bacanalnica [es]) comments:

Canal 15 de Nicaragua justifica su actitud ofensiva indicando a nuestro compañero @JulioCordoba que: “Es nuestra posicion editorial defensa de nuestra soberania y no aceptar insultos”. Este Chamuko entiende que dos personas se pongan a pelear como viejas de patio en Twitter, si hasta este pobre diablo lo ha hecho, pero esa actitud viniendo de un medio de comunicación oficial, “serio”, deja mucho que desear.

Channel 15 in Nicaragua justifies [es] its offensive attitude indicating to our friend @JulioCordoba that: “It is our editorial position in defence of our sovereignty and against accepting insults.” This troublemaker understands two people can start arguing like old ladies on Twitter, even this poor devil has done it, but this attitude coming from an official means of communication leaves little to be desired.

Regarding this matter, Canal 15 responds by broadcasting the report of the visit by the Organisation of American States (OAS) to Nicaragua and Costa Rica several times per day and the report that was presented when they had returned to the organisation headquarters was one in which Costa Rican police are seen heavily armed with the subtitle: “COSTA RICA DOES HAVE AN ARMY”[es]

“Spammer” on Bacanalnica [es] comments:

Y anoche pasaron lo de la OEA y seguido pasan la marcha en CR de los niños que quieren la paz como que si ahorita ya estamos en guerra, pobrecitos que los manipulen en esto, como si los niños supieran que estaban haciendo realmente más bien les van a meter miedo y odio porque van a creer que están en guerra por culpa de Nicaragua, y eso si lo pasa CNN y lo editan para que miremos cuando la Chinchilla dijo lo de “al otro lado sacan al ejercito y acá nosotros sacamos a nuestro ejercito de niños”.

Lo ultimo que si ya cae en lo absurdo es que dijeron primero que en CR habian camiones del ejercito nica […] para muuuuuucho después enterarnos que ni eran del ejercito ni eran camiones militares, sino que son de uso civil que lo único militar es el color verde…

And last night they showed the OAS report and then the march for peace by Costa Rican children as if we’re already at war; the poor things being manipulated like that, as if the children really knew what they were doing. Instead they are making them afraid. I hate it because they’re going to think that they’re going to war because of Nicaragua, which they are even showing edited on CNN so that we see when [President] Chinchilla says “over that side they bring out their army out and over here we bring out our army of children.”

The latest absurdity is that they said that in Costa Rica there were Nicaraguan army trucks […] and all that just to hear that they’re just civil vehicles, the only military thing about them is the colour green.”

The X Word

One subject that reemerges during these periodic and recurrent cross border crises is xenophobia.

“Pozuelo” on 89 Decibeles [es] stated:

Y hay un problema igual o peor que este último. Y es lo hipócritas que somos. Claro, basta a que unos cuantos soldados nicas se metan en una zona del país … para decir que nos están militarizando, cuando hace unos 3 meses tenemos unos kilómetros más abajo a unos cuantos buques de guerra “luchando con el narco”.

And there is always a problem of the same magnitude or even worse than the last. And that shows how hypocritical we are. Of course, it’s already enough that some Nicaraguan soldiers settle in an area of the country…to say that they’re not posing a military threat, when a few months ago there were warships a few kilometres further down “fighting against drug traffickers”.

Carlos Fonseca M. wrote in Periodista en Pijamas [es] about “Maybe he who shouts is the winner?,” [es] criticising the positions reflected in a compilation post on Global Voices Online carried out by a Costa Rican author on the blogosphere reactions in his country.

Me parece que para que una discusión sea de “altura”, es necesario escuchar los diferentes argumentos. Yo invitaría a aquel que me lea, vaya y comente con respeto y argumentos de peso algunas de estas “superioridades” morales que esgrimen nuestros vecinos. ¿Corrupción? ¿inseguridad? ¿movida política?… “no, eso sólo en Nicaragua” deben pensar, aquí estamos en la Suiza Centroamericana.

I feel that it is high time for a discussion, it’s essential to listen to the different arguments. I would invite him over there to read my opinion, to go and comment with respect and strong arguments for these moral “superiorities” that our neighbours are putting forward. Corruption? Danger? Political instability? “No, it is only in Nicaragua” they must think, we are here in the Central American Switzerland.

Those commenting on the original Spanish version of the aforementioned Global Voices post [es] return to these points and some even become offensive. Several touch on the theme of immigration; the report “Immigration in Costa Rica: social and labour characteristics, integration and public policies” [es] from CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) provides hard facts about immigration in Costa Rica.

Within this whole panorama there are also bloggers defending common encounters between both countries, with varying nuances.

H3Dicho [es] writes “Nicaphobia is for idiots,” but with subtle opinions about the Nicaraguan population:

El pueblo costarricense por el otro lado no solo es un pueblo de paz, sino un pueblo más educado, y no nos podemos rebajar al nivel del gobierno nicaragüense promoviendo la xenofobia, ya que sino nos convertiriamos en algo peor de lo que criticamos.

El choque cultural con el pueblo nicaragüense se da por la marcada diferencia de educación, ya que el inmigrante nicaragüense suele ser muy pobre y con poca educación, por lo cual suele ser víctima de chistes en nuestro país, pero lejos de ser un asunto de xenofobia, es más un asunto de clasismo, claramente comparable con la que recibe, en cualquier parte del mundo, el campesino cuando llega a la capital.

The Costa Rican people on the other side are not only peaceful people, but better educated, and we cannot be reduced to the same level as the Nicaraguan government by promoting xenophobia, as we would only become something worse than what we are criticising.

Culture shock with Nicaraguan people occurs because of the distinct difference in education; as the Nicaraguan immigrant is normally very poor with a low level of education, for which he becomes the butt of jokes within our country; but far from being a matter of xenophobia, it’s more a matter of classism, clearly comparable to the reception a villager would receive when arriving at his capital for the first time. This could happen anywhere in the world.

An article in Revista Paquidermo [es] states:

En efecto, resulta preocupante e indignante la ola de xenofobia que circula —sin tapujos— por nuestro territorio debido a los acontecimientos fronterizos de las últimas semanas. Dicha ola se ha manifestado con fuerza inusitada en las redes sociales. Se leen comentarios impublicables que llaman incluso a la muerte del otro como expresión máxima de hombría y revancha guerrerista.

In effect, the wave of xenophobia that has been circulating has become worrying and indignant – keeping everything above board – for our territory because of the cross-border events of the last few weeks. This wave has manifested itself with rare strength on social networks. Unpublishable articles have been read that even call the death of another as an expression of manliness and war-mongering.

From Twitter, Facebook and various forums, Nicaraguan opinions circulate, in a dispersed manner not because of lack of commentators, but because of the very way in which Twitter and Facebook function, without even counting the traditional media.

The Nicaraguan journalist Lucia Pineda Ubau of Canal 15 on her Facebook page states [es]:

SIGAMOS UNIDOS. NO PODEMOS SALIR DE NUESTRO TERRITORIO. Quiero felicitar a los canales 2, 4, 8, 15, 23 y 37. Tambien a unas 300 radio emisoras de todo el pais, que estuvimos enlazados, unidos en un solo puño transmitiendo paso a paso de forma integra y sin cortes todo lo que ocurrió en la OEA. En Costa Rica solo un canal de televisión transmitio la sesion y los otros continuaron con su programación normal. Resulta ilogico que un pais que dice estar invadido, el tema no se lo sirvan sin cortes a su pueblo.

WE REMAIN UNITED. WE CANNOT LEAVE OUR TERRITORY. [es] I want to congratulate channels 2, 4, 8, 15, 23 and 37 and also to some 300 radio stations throughout our country, to which we were linked, united together in transmitting step by step with integrity and without cuts everything that happened in the OAS. In Costa Rica only one TV channel broadcast the session while the others continued with their usual schedule. It seems illogical that a country that says it is being invaded doesn’t even offer any updates to its people.

On Bacanalnica, the debate is like this:

TerrorBlade: Costa Rica está tomando una posición muy “débil” internacionalmente para hacerse sentir las víctimas por no tener ejército desde hace 60 años y hay chifletas de que ya están unidos con Honduras, Colombia y Ecuador. En medios de comunicación ticos y redes sociales están bombardeando con insultos y gritos de auxilio, incluso con sensacionalismo, los muy degenerados sacaron en sus medios de comunicación nacionales que los militares que están “en su zona” secuestraron pescadores ticos y se los llevaron a la zona nica para cobrar multas y los tienen de rehenes. Apoyen a la causa gente, denle ‘like’ a este foro. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Rio-sa … 6235690462

ARIBAI: … es notorio que la mayoria de ticos que opinan en este medio les importa poco el San Juan y mas que todo se sienten violados pues sus medios han vendido la idea que el ejercito nicaraguense esta metido en isla Calero, a la cual ellos consideran de su territorio. No porque el tico promedio conozca de cabo a rabo su geografia sino porque asi leyeron por alli…

Melissa: Si la gente deja de andar con el patriotismo fariseo y se centra en soluciones tecnicas dinamicas y puntuales, se acabo el tal conflicto. No se le da espacio para que el gobierno manipule y se le exige seriedad y prontitud en el asunto.

TerrorBlade [es]: Costa Rica is taking a very “weak” position internationally by playing the victim for not having an army for 60 years and there is a rumour that they are united with Honduras, Colombia and Ecuador. They are bombarding Costa Rican media and social networks with insults and cries for help, even with sensationalism, the real degenerates broadcast in their national media that soldiers in “their zone” kidnapped Costa Rican fishermen and took them to the Nicaraguan zone to fine them and keep them as hostages. Support this case, people: give a “like” on this forum.http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Rio-sa … 6235690462

ARIBAI [es]: …It’s obvious that the majority of Costa Ricans who voice their opinions in this way do not care much about San Juan, and above all they feel violated as this medium has sold the idea that the Nicaraguan army has settled on Calero Island, which they consider their territory. Not because the average Costa Rican knows their own geography inside out but because that’s what they’ve been reading over there…

Melissa: If people stop exercising patriotism so hypocritically and focus on dynamic and detailed technical solutions, this conflict could be over. The government needs to be given space to handle this matter promptly and to give it the seriousness that it deserves.

Various initiatives are seeking to create links between both populations against xenophobia, such as the Facebook pages No a la Xenofobia [es] (No to Xenophobia), Ticos Y Nicas Somos Hermanos [es] (Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans we are brothers), or messages from @twittnice (Nicarguan twitter group).

"we denounce sites like these that foment xenophobia against Nicaraguans"

Unfortunately, cases of xenophobia are reappearing on both sides of the river.

Self-assessment and analysis from Nicaragua

Carlos Lucas in his blog post “NICARAGUA TIENE UNA DEBILIDAD ESTRATEGICA EN SU CONSTITUCION Y EN SU LUCHA INTERNA” [es] (Nicaragua has a strategic weakness in its constitution and internal conflicts) reports on the following, comparing article 10 Nicaraguan constitution to article 5 of its neighbor's constitution:

En su Constitucion (2007), Nicaragua tiene la debilidad gravisima de definir sus limites territoriales de manera genérica y deja abierta la posibilidad de que sus limites puedan ser cuestionados o especificados a traves de “leyes y tratados”

Costa Rica no menciona específicamente los laudos Alexander en su Constitucion, aunque no dice que sean parte intrínseca del Laudo Cleveland. Eso le permite la posibilidad de mantener reclamaciones fronterizas a Nicaragua, basadas en interpretaciones de acuerdo a la coyuntura de la situación interna en Nicaragua.

In their 2007 constitution, Nicaragua has a serious weakness by defining their territorial limits very generally and leaving open the possibility that those borders could be questioned or defined differently through “laws and treaties”.

Costa Rica doesn't specifically mention the Alexander arbitral awards in their constitution, though it doesn't say that the Alexander arbitrations are an intrinsic part of Grover Cleveland arbitration either. This has allowed Costa Rica to uphold its border claims against Nicaragua based on treaty interpretations and the internal situation of Nicaragua.

Cornelio Hopmman, a German citizen based in Nicaragua, comments in his blog:

En la tradición jurídica nicaragüense vale lo que dice la escritura en su descripción por el texto y el mapa o el plano catastral figuran solamente como un adendum explicativo pero sin valor jurídico constitutivo, donde en el caso de conflicto la escritura prevalece sobre el mapa o el plano catastral.

En la tradición de Europa occidental el mapa prevalece sobre lo que dice el texto descriptivo, siempre y cuando éste mapa fuera levantado por un topógrafo con licencia pública, a los cuales las respectivas leyes les dan un rango y obligaciones similares a los de un notario público…

Toda esa diferencia se quedaría en pura curiosidad, si no fuera que en la disputa actual esa diferencia se hubiese vuelto fundamental…

Me permito la sospecha, que la mayoría de los jueces de la Corte de La Haya […] se vaya a inclinar en esa dirección de valoración, si acaso se presenta el caso, y dudo que se dejen convencer por Nicaragua para retroceder, para ellos, a prácticas y tradiciones del siglo XVIII en cuanto al peso legal de narrativas contra el peso legal de los mapas, aunque eso sea todavía la tradición legal vigente en Nicaragua.

In the judicial tradition of Nicaragua, what the written agreement says in its description, through text and map or property survey, would figure solely as an explicit addendum but without legal constitutional value, and in the case of conflict between the two, the written word prevails over the map or property survey.

In the legal traditions of Western Europe, the map always prevails over what is said in the descriptive text, and this map would be prepared by a publicly licensed topographer, to whom the respective laws define a certain professional approach and obligations similar to those of a public notary…

All these differences would remain a curiosity, if not for the present dispute that difference would not have become fundamental…

Allow me the suspicion that the majority of the judges of the Hague International Court […] are going to be inclined toward the Western European version of valuation, and if the case presents itself, I doubt that they would let themselves be convinced by Nicaragua to regress, to them at least, to practices and traditions from the 18th century when the legal weight of narratives was greater than the legal weight of maps, though that would still be the legal view in effect in Nicaragua.

From the website Bacanalnica the users say:

Melissa: No hubo licitaciones, no tuvimos acceso publico a los datos de impacto ambiental, tuvo que ir un periodico y practicamente ESPIAR para que le FILTRARAN el documento del impacto ambiental. El secretismo desbordante de como se maneja algo de interes nacional con dinero publico?? o con prestamo?? no lo sabemos aun….

La draga es soberana de Nic. y dragar no debe existir probremas con nadie, Nicaragua tiene la soberanía del rio y no debe pedirle permiso a nadie, pero tampoco nos debemos volcar a solo prestarle atencion a este “conflicto” y cerrar los ojos a todos los errores de Ortega.

Claunica: En Carretera a Masaya ya aparecieron unas mantas que dicen “El Rio San Juan es Nica, Ortega 2011″. Si eso no es aprovecharse de la coyuntura para hacer politiqueria pues ya no se que sera.

Melissa [es]: There weren't public tender, we didn't have public access to the facts of the environmental impact, you had to go to a newspaper and practically SQUINT in order to sort out the environmental impact report. The glaring unknown is how could something of national interest being managed, with public money?? or a loan?? we still don't know…

The dredging ship is Nicaraguan and dredging shouldn't cause problems with anyone, Nicaragua has sovereign authority over the river and shouldn't need to ask anyone's permission, but neither should we roll over completely to the government's side, lending more attention to this “conflict” and closing our eyes to all of Ortega's mistakes.

Claunica [es]: On the highway to Masaya there are already signs showing up that say “The San Juan river is Nicaraguan! Ortega 2011″. If that isn't taking advantage of the situation in order to make politics then what will.

Carlos Lucas concludes:

La tesis subterránea es que en estos momentos el Orteguismo y la incapacidad de la oposicion de impedir su reelecion y continuismo, repitiendo el fenómeno Somoza de fractura social y politica, genera incapacidad nicaraguense de dotarse de una estrategia de nación en su defensa territorial. Y esa situacion se vislumbra aprovechable.

The underground theory is that owing to the current wave of support for Ortega and the inability of the opposition to stop his reelection and continued rule, essentially repeating the Somoza phenomenon of social and political division, the situation in these times creates an inability for Nicaraguans to provide themselves with a national strategy for the defense of their territory. This situation is obviously useful to others.

In the last few days the news on the border conflict from the Nicaraguan side has discussed either a viability study (according to official channels [es]) or a study from the de facto start of construction of a hydroelectric dam (using Brazilian funding) on the same San Juan River that they are attempting to dredge (according to government opposition sources [es]).

Políticamente Incorrecto [es] connects this recent news twist with the Nicaraguan government desire to link Christianity and patriotism as themes of their administration. The conflict has lost the media frenzy and the political realities on both sides of the border are asserting themselves.

Original post [es] published on the blog of Rodrigo Peñalba, November 16th.
Translated in collaboration with Helen Barlow.

2 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site