Costa Rica to sue Nicaragua over offshore oil blocs

The Costa Rican government announced Feb. 4 that it is preparing to file a new complaint against Nicaragua with the International Court of Justice at The Hague, accusing Managua of offering Costa Rican maritime territory to international oil companies. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has dismissed the charges, stating the area in question clearly falls within the country’s maritime borders, as outlined by an ICJ ruling of November 2012. The announcement marks the third ICJ case between the two nations. Costa Rica filed the first complaint in November 2010, accusing Nicaragua of seizing Isla Portillo (also known as Isla Calero and Harbour Head Island) in the Río San Juan, which forms the common border. In December 2012, Nicaragua filed a grievance charging that Costa Rica's construction of a highway along the San Juan was causing environmental damage. The first claim was upheld by the ICJ in n November 2013, with the court ordering Managua to remove all personnel and equipment from the disputed island. In December 2013, the Court rejected the second claim, finding that “Nicaragua has not…established the existence of a real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights invoked" in the highway project.

Costa Rica will present the new case at The Hague on May 8, the same day a new president is to take office. On Feb. 2, Costa Rica held elections to replace President Laura Chinchilla of the center-left National Liberation Party (PLN), but none of the 13 candidates running exceeded the minimum 40% of votes required. Ruling party candidate Johnny Araya and Luis Guillermo Solís of the new populist-left Citizen Action Party (PAC), will face each other in an April run-off. The PAC seems to have superceded the scandal-plagued center-right Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) as Costa Rica's top rival to the PLN. (Tico Times, Feb. 8; PanAm Post, Feb. 5; Tico Times, Feb. 4*; Tico Times, Dec. 13; Tico Times, Nov. 21)

* The AFP account on which the Feb. 4 Tico Times piece was based incorrectly states that the Isla Portillo and highway cases remain open, and also erroneously names the latter as having been filed in December 2013. It was filed in December 2012, and rejected in December 2013.