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The Nicaragua-Costa Rica Conflict, Revisited: Part I

In a prior post by Roy Rojas (November 6th, Global Voices OnlineGlobal Voices began to cover the border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, showing the first reactions from the Costa Rican blogosphere. The situation, that began on November 2, has become more complex, going from patriotic agendas to nationalist inspirations, xenophobic attacks, internet memes, historical revisionism from both sides, political analysis and a lot of multimedia content.

In this post we will review some of the moments of this crisis seen from the “nica” (Nicaraguan) and “tica” (Costa Rican) blogosphere.

Google's mistake

A headline was repeated by thousands of posts and tweets on the Internet, claiming that Nicaragua invaded Costa Rica based on an “error” from Google Maps. The news appeared on well-known blogs and sites such as FayerWayer [es] and Time.com.

El excomandante nicaragüense Edén Pastora utilizó esto como excusa para justificar la incursión de tropas nicas lideradas por él en suelo costarricense, pese a que los trazados limítrofes de ambos países coinciden entre sí y discrepan con la versión de los mapas de la “gran G”.

The Nicaraguan ex-commander Edén Pastora used this as an excuse to justify the Nica troops incursion led by him on Costa Rican soil, despite that the limits of both countries are in agreement and differ from the maps of the “great G”.

Sebastián Cabezas from FayerWayer [es] reported:

Pero no conforme, Pastora insólitamente insistió en su punto: “Vea la foto satelital de Google y ahí se ve la frontera. En los últimos 3.000 metros las dos márgenes son de Nicaragua. De allí hacia El Castillo, la frontera sí es la margen derecha, está clarito”, alegó en entrevista al diario La Nación de Costa Rica.

Unhappy Pastora insisted: “Look at Google’s satellite picture, there you can see the border. In the last 3,000 meters both edges are Nicaraguan. From there to El Castillo, the border is correctly on the right side, it’s clear”, argued in an interview by the daily La Nacion of Costa Rica.

With over 500 comments at this time, Time also wrote about Google’s “error”. The last time Time.com wrote about Nicaragua it was with the headline “Baseball Diplomacy.”

A border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was off by 3,000 meters on Google Maps. This sparked Nicaraguan military commander Eden Pastora to invade Costa Rica and order troops to take down Costa Rican flags in a disputed territory.

The use of Google Maps by Nicaragua was first mentioned in an interview by Eden Pastora, the presidential delegate for the dredging of the Rio San Juan, to the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación [es]. It reads:

¿Asegura que todos los trabajos son en suelo nicaragüense? “Basta revisar el Laudo Cleveland y los acuerdos limítrofes. El 24 de julio de 1900 se decidió así. Los sedimentos están en territorio nica y la limpieza de árboles para descubrir el caño está en territorio nicaragüense. Vea la foto satelital de Google y ahí se ve la frontera. En los últimos 3.000 metros las dos márgenes son de Nicaragua. De allí hacia El Castillo, la frontera sí es la margen derecha, está clarito.”

Are you sure that all the jobs being performed are in Nicaraguan soil? “It is sufficient to review the Laudo Cleveland and bordering accords. This was decided on July 24th of 1900. The sediments are in Nica territory and the clearing of trees to uncover the pipeline is in Nicaraguan territory. Look at Google’s satellite picture and you can see the border. In the last 3,000 meters both borders are from Nicaragua. From there to El Castillo, the border is on the right side, it’s clear”.

A blog dedicated to Google Earth (Ogle Earth: Examining how internet mapping tools like Google Earth affect science and society) retook the case, delivering, possibly, the most complete collection of images of historical context over the resolution of this case, including re-readings of the original border treaties.

The post “About Costa Rica, Nicaragua, their mutual border, and Google” concludes with this commentary:

Given all this information, we can conclude that the narrative currently dominating the internet is wrong: Nicaragua did not mistakenly enter Costa Rican territory because it relied on Google Maps. Ortega’s justification for Nicaragua’s actions appeal to documents from the 19th century; Pastora’s mention of Google Maps is just a taunt.

The discussion over the shown maps continues in the comments, with references to mid-19th century maps, with comments from users like Stephen Geens and JCA about the interpretation of the map and the Nicaraguan need to show maps that prove the existence of a pipeline during the signing of the original treaties, and by which the river is being dredged at this time.

Eden Pastora as a main character in the conflict

The discussion of the dredging of Rio San Juan began a long time ago, but it wasn't until November that the dredging actually began. On April of this year, Carlos Lucas from Nicaragua wrote the following in his blog [es]:

A manera de empresa independiente, cedida directamente (a Eden Pastora) por la Presidencia la autorización de llevar a cabo la obra, sin estudios del Ministerio de Construcción, sin valoración científico- técnica del impacto ambiental, sin análisis jurídico de las implicancias del manejo de las aguas, con desembolso ya efectuado por CARUNA, empresa que maneja los fondos venezolanos, por 1.2 millones de dólares, está cercana la fecha, prácticamente con las primeras lluvias, para iniciar esta operación, estimada en durar 2-3 años y a un costo total de unos 4 millones de dólares.

Una empresa de esta envergadura […] se ha asignado, sin licitación técnico-financiera tampoco, como una manera tal vez de mantener ocupado a un hiperactivo comandante sandinista, comandante contra, confeso agente de la CIA, subordinado de Oliver North.

Like an independent company, the presidency ceded directly (to Eden Pastora) the authorization to carry out the work, without studies from the Ministry of Construction, without scientific-technical reviews of the impact on the ecosystem, without judicial analysis of the implications of water management, with refunds already carried out by CARUNA, the company that manages all the Venezuelan funds, of USD$1.2 million, the date is fast approaching, practically with the first rains, to begin this operation, estimated to last 2-3 years with a total cost of USD$4 million.

A company of this scale… has been assigned, without technical-financial bidding either, perhaps as to keep busy a hyperactive Sandinista commander, contra commander, confessed agent of the CIA, subordinate of Oliver North.

Pastora has now become a player on both sides of the border. Lucas continues by quoting an interview with Eden Pastora in the El Nuevo Diario from Nicaragua in 2001:

”Tengo en venta un lote de joyas históricas (un reloj marca Rolec, dos anillos del mismo estilo con siete brillantes y un cordón de oro). Asimismo vendo copiadora Risso con todos sus complementos ideal para montar una impresora. También vendo un león africano casero de siete meses de nacido. Si es cierto que el diablo existe, díganle que también le vendo el alma.”

“I’m selling several historical jewels (a Rolex watch, 2 rings of similar fashion with seven stones and a gold chain). I’m also selling a Risso copy machine with all its ideal accessories to equip a printshop. I’m also selling a seven-month-old, house-broken African lion. If the devil exists, tell him I’m selling a soul too.”

On the other side of the river folks remember Pastora's past, in a post by Lisbeth Quezada Tristan, published in the blog by journalist Amelia Rueda:

Se le olvidó y a su amigo Daniel Ortega también, las múltiples casas de seguridad que cientos de costarricenses prestaron para la recuperación de sus hombres y de nicaragüenses heridos en la guerra de liberación. ¿Se le olvidó, como nos convertimos en país receptor y despachador de armas, que eran necesarias para la revolución Sandinista? ¿Se recuerda que los colegas del Hospital México, le salvaron la vida por el atentado de la Penca?

Come hoy, en el mismo plato de Ortega, pero a mí no se olvidan sus palabras de desprecio y recriminación, en mi presencia, en casa de un amigo mutuo, en los cerros de Aserrí, en los años 90s, cuando usted hacía referencia a la piñata, a la repartición, a la traición de Daniel Ortega, Tomás Borge (uno de los fundadores del FSLN y comandante en los 80′s) y todo el resto, y que de la noche a la mañana resultaron muy adinerados.

… Si mi memoria no me falla, [Pastora] trabajaba en esa época como pescador en aguas costarricenses para comer. Hizo esa noche una referencia de cómo “cuando a uno ya le salen canas en….., ya no se cambia, ni se traicionan los ideales”.

¡A tiempos aquellos! Usted se olvida rápido, yo no.

He [Pastora] forgot about it and his friend Daniel Ortega too, about the multiple safe houses that hundreds of Costa Ricans offered for the safekeeping of his men and Nicaraguans injured during the war of liberation. Did he forget, how we became a country that received and distributed weapons, that were necessary for the Sandinista revolution? Does he remember that the colleagues from Hospital Mexico, saved his life from the la Penca assault?

Today he [Pastora] eats from the same plate as Ortega, but I don’t forget his words of hate and recrimination, in my presence, at a mutual friend’s house, in the mountains of Aserrí, in the 90s, when you made references to the piñata [es], or the distribution, the betrayal of Daniel Ortega, Tomás Borge (one of the founders of the FSLN and commander during the 80s) and all the rest, and that from night to dusk they came out wealthy.

… if mi memory serves me right, [Pastora] worked at that time as a fisherman in Costa Tican waters  just to have something eat. That night he made a reference to how “when one grows grey hair… ideals cannot be changed nor betrayed”.

Those were some times! You may forget quickly, I don’t.

In forums, they openly call him a “traitor,” with details of his military incursions as a counterrevolutionary in the 80s:

Cucaracho: todo esto del dragado de Eden Pastora con doble nacionalidad (es nicaraguense y tambien obtuvo nacionalidad tica) es pq quiere retomar su sueño de nuevo de establecer la republica libre del San Juan del Norte e ir aun mas lejos….el tontoneco ese quiere hacer riqueza en una Nicaragua cada vez más extensa e ingobernable por vía del fraccionamiento de la misma para el ser el “caudillo” de sus intereses personales… (comentando una biografia de Eden Pastora)

Cucaracho: all this dredging by Eden Pastora with double nationality (he is Nicaraguan and he also procured the Costa Rican nationality) is because he wants to retake his dream of establishing the free republic of San Juan del Norte and go further even… this fool wants to cultivate wealth in an expansive and ungovernable Nicaragua by way of its fractioning so he can become the “caudillo” (head of state) of his personal interests…(commenting on a biography of Eden Pastora [es])

The tone of the comments towards Pastora has grown in discontent from both sides of the border, sparking even the dedication of a flash game where one can “kill Pastora“, published in the blog El Infierno en Costa Rica [es], and referenced by Nica blogs, Bacanalnica [es].

This post will continue with a second part, analyzing the nationalist sentiment in the media, xenophobia in social networks and analysis by Nicaraguan bloggers.

Original Post [es] published by Rodrigo Peñalba on November 16.

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