Nicaragua irks Mexico, Costa Rica with drug talk
Mexico City (AP) — Recriminations from a border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica rippled throughout the region Sunday as Mexico and Costa Rica hotly denied Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s suggestion that drug-trafficking interests were behind a regional vote on the issue that didn’t go his way.
The Mexican Foreign Relations Department said in a statement that it sent a diplomatic letter of protest to Nicaragua over what it calls “unfounded and unjustified accusations.”
Its counterpart in Costa Rica accused Ortega of “recklessly [launching] accusations about drug trafficking against various Latin American nations in his desire to distract his people from the overwhelming defeat suffered” in the Organization of American States.
In a statement, Costa Rica’s Foreign Relations Department urged Nicaraguan authorities “to use common sense and avoid actions that could aggravate the situation.”
Costa Rica and Nicaragua are fighting over a disputed patch of terrain about the size of Liechtenstein along the San Juan River that forms a part of their border. Nicaragua sent troops to the area last month — angering Costa Rica, which called the deployment an “invasion.”
The permanent council of the OAS approved a resolution last Friday calling for Nicaragua to withdraw its forces and urging the two countries to continue talks on the issue.
The measure passed by a 22-2 vote with Nicaragua joined in opposition only by Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chávez, is a strong Ortega ally.
In a speech Saturday, Ortega called the vote “manipulated, trickery, deceitful and a conspiracy.”
He said Nicaragua deployed the soldiers to fight drug smuggling and suggested that the OAS resolution was a response from governments supposedly influenced by the drug trade. He specifically mentioned Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala, although 15 other nations also voted in favor of the resolution.
“Nations infested by drug trafficking made a common front,” Ortega said. “Drug traffickers are directing Costa Rican policy. That has to worry us.”
He said Nicaragua is considering leaving the regional body.
The Mexican government rejected Ortega’s accusations, noting the resolution’s near-universal support in the region and calling its position “absolutely congruent.”
“By taking a stance that tries to justify his disrespect for the majority’s will for peace and understanding agreed upon Friday by the Organization of American States, President Ortega disrespects … nations from this hemisphere that are making enormous efforts to fight drug trafficking,” Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry said.
The country had asked the OAS to tell Nicaragua to stop dredging in the San Juan that it says is causing environmental damage, and to remove about 50 Nicaraguan soldiers from the zone.
Costa Rica, which does not have an army, has sent in about 70 police officers stationed in Barra de Colorado, a town near the disputed area.
Nicaragua claims the land as its own and has said it will not withdraw the troops.
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