Cablegate: Seventh Costa Rica-Nicaragua Binationals: More


DE RUEHSJ #0829/01 2941516
P 201516Z OCT 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000829



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2018

Classified By: DCM Peter M. Brennan for reason 1.4(d).

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Seventh Binational Commission Meeting
between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, held on October 3 in San
Jose, produced 20 "accords" but little substance. Most
agenda items in the final document simply called for further
dialogue. Of note, however, Costa Rica agreed to grant high
school diplomas to illegal Nicaraguan immigrants; Nicaragua
agreed to finalize a plan to protect virgin ecological
reserves on the Eastern side of the border; and the two
countries agreed to a new software program to map their
shared border and to facilitate the addition of more border
markers. Absent was the topic of Costa Rican navigation
rights on the Rio San Juan; written arguments have been
presented to the International Court of Justice, with
hearings to be held next Spring and a final decision to be
announced later in 2009. MFA interlocutors expressed doubt
at achieving much progress in other areas, including securing
the border against illegal immigration. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On October 7, we met with Sergio Ugalde and Arnoldo
Brenes, MFA special advisors for Nicaraguan issues, who
walked us through the various binational accords. Most
notable was an agreement from the Costa Rican Ministry of
Education (MEP) to grant certificates of completion
(including diplomas) to illegal Nicaraguan students
progressing through the Costa Rican educational system.
Before, when a student completed his/her education, the MEP
could not grant a diploma because the student in an irregular
immigration status lacked an official Costa Rican identity
card, or cedula. Under the agreement, the MEP would now
accept a "proof of identity" letter from the Nicaraguan
Embassy in order to provide school documents to children at
various grade levels. The agreement made clear that the
identity documents would be used only for the MEP's
administrative purposes and would not indicate a regularized

3. (U) Officials from the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment
and Energy (MINAE) and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment
and Natural Resources (MARENA) presented agreements to pursue
common projects under the Binational Strategic Environmental
Plan within the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora. Nicaragua also agreed to present its plan for the
"establishment and operation" of national ecological
corridors within the still-virgin forests along the shared

4. (U) MFA contacts hailed a letter of intent between the
Costa Rican National Geographic Institute and the Nicaraguan
Institute of Territorial Analysis to use the same
"geospatial" mapping software as an important step toward
harmonizing the coordinates of new border markers. Adding
more markers would better delineate the physical border on
the ground.

5. (SBU) The eighth agreement in the final document calls for
both countries to strengthen border controls "with a view to
eliminating smuggling" (and trafficking, the MFA told us) in
persons. Ugalde and Brenes expressed extreme skepticism,
however, that Nicaragua had any real intention to re-enforce
its borders or to discourage its citizens from entering
illegally into Costa Rica, where more economic opportunity

6. (SBU) Nicaragua only agreed to "continue to study" Costa
Rica's request for reciprocity in visa policies. The GOCR
Directorate of Immigration has a non-immigrant visa category
that allows aliens from countries for which a Costa Rican
visa is required (such as Nicaragua) to enter without a visa
if they hold full-validity U.S., Schengen (most EU
countries), or Canadian visas. Nicaragua has been unwilling
to abdicate its "sovereign authority" by pegging its
non-immigrant visa policy to the visa criteria of other
countries. Ugalde and Brenes suggested that Costa Rica may
therefore drop Nicaragua from the list of countries whose
citizens enjoy this benefit.

7. (U) Agreements to explore municipal exchanges, to improve
the health of those living in border communities,
to expand cultural exchanges, and to expand cooperation in
the tourism industries were also included. The complete
text of the GOCR MFA's press release, which included the
final document and all 20 accords, can be found at the
MFA's Web site:

8. (C) COMMENT: Ugalde and Brenes described Nicaraguan
cooperation as less than forthcoming. The GOCR had to
propose several dates and pursue the Nicas to get them to

commit to holding this meeting. While the bilateral meetings
which have been on-again, off-again since 1994 -- have been
important to the Arias administration as a show of improving
relations between neighbors (and to some extent as a safety
valve to release some of the historic tension between the two
countries), the meetings continue to produce more talk than
substance. END COMMENT.

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