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Cablegate: Costa Rica - San Juan River Dispute Drags On

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0799 2612234
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 182234Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1218
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA 5793
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000799

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM IO NU CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA - SAN JUAN RIVER DISPUTE DRAGS ON

REF: A. SAN JOSE 619
B. WHA ASDAR 8/28/09

1. (SBU) Costa Rica and Nicaragua continue to be locked in a
long-standing dispute over the management of the San Juan
River, despite a July 13 International Court of Justice (ICJ)
ruling to settle the matter (Ref A). Though both countries
claimed to accept the ruling, on August 25 the GON announced
plans to start dredging the San Juan in order to increase
waterflow (Ref B). The GOC is concerned that dredging the
San Juan, which was expressly forbidden by the ICJ ruling,
would cause environmental damage along Costa Rica's Colorado
River, which is fed by the San Juan. The GOC has sent three
diplomatic notes to the GON objecting the plan, and insisting
that an environmental impact study be done before any further
action is considered. GOC point-person on the San Juan
dispute Arnoldo Brenes told us that the GON has $4 million
already allocated for the dredging project, which was planned
to begin in October (a month later than the announced start
date of September).

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2. (SBU) On August 30 Costa Rican press reported that the GON
was continuing to charge fees to Costa Rica vessels on the
San Juan, which also violates the ICJ ruling. However,
Brenes later told us that they had received some reports from
fishing vessels that the GON had suspended the charges as of
September 1, at least in the area where the Sarapiqui river
meets the San Juan. Brenes said that they hadn't yet
received reports on the issue from other parts of the river,
and had yet to receive any communication on the issue from
the GON in response to their diplomatic notes.

3. (SBU) In a meeting in early September MFA Chief of Staff
Elaine White said she would welcome any information we could
give them about the GON's plans for dredging the river.
Stating that the GOC's staff in Managua was "limited", she
asked if we could pass along any information our Embassy in
Managua could find on the issue.

4. (SBU) Comment: While the two countries share a common
border, Costa Rica and Nicaragua remain worlds apart. The
fact that the GOC has requested information from us about the
GON's plans for their shared border shows just how little the
two governments communicate. From our conversations with GOC
officials, it is clear that any "dialogue" they have with the
Nicaraguans merely consists of mailing off a diplomatic note
and waiting for a reply, which often never comes. Though
there had been hope that the ICJ ruling had put the San Juan
dispute to rest, it is clear that border problems between the
two neighbors will continue to be an issue.

BRENNAN

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