Costa Rica Treats 67 Cubans Injured By The Use Of Military Force In Nicaragua

Cientos de cubanos siguen varados en la frontera de Costa Rica mientras Nicaragua les niega la entrada para seguir hacia el norte. (EFE/Álvaro Sánchez)
Hundreds of Cubans are still stranded at the border of Costa Rica while Nicaragua denied entry to move north. (EFE / Alvaro Sanchez)

The Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) had to treat 67 Cubans after clashes with the Nicaraguan Army, according to the Government of Costa Rica. The migrants were treated at the Cuidad Neily Hospital, at the hostels located in La Cruz canton and at a border post on the northern border of the country.

Dr. Maria Eugenia Villalta Bonilla, CCSS medical director, reported that migrants were treated for various injuries caused mainly by tear gas fired by the Nicaraguan Army; however, none were in serious condition.

Since Monday, the Cuban migrants have been in various shelters in the community of La Cruz, and the Emergency Health Services of the area are being reinforced with more personnel, in order to prioritize patients requiring immediate medical attention. The emergency health services of La Cruz are available 24 hours a day, with more personnel on duty from 7 AM to 4 PM.  

This level of care in the northern zone of the country will be maintained as long as necessary, according to the institutions, that is as long as Cubans remain in the shelters, as the institutional priority is to maintain an adequate level of health care.

Migrants were treated for various injuries caused mainly by tear gas fired by the Nicaraguan Army

Migrants have also been assessed to rule out other illnesses caused by environmental conditions, such as respiratory infections, nutritional problems, flu and dehydration.

Tension between Costa Rica and Nicaragua intensified this Monday with accusations made by both governments. Nicaragua formalized a complaint against Costa Rica before the 192 member states of the United Nations for provoking a humanitarian crisis by allowing the islanders to leave, according to Nicaraguan Deputy Foreign Minister Maria Rubiales.

The complaint was also sent to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

About 2,000 Cubans arrived in Ecuador by air and from there moved unofficially through Colombia and Panama, reaching Costa Rica, where on Saturday the government granted them seven-day transit visas valid to reach Nicaragua on their trip to the United States.

However, on arriving at Peñas Blancas, the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan government denied them entry and on Sunday afternoon the army stopped about 800 who tried to enter illegally.

Following this incident, the Managua Government deplored and condemned “the irresponsible attitude, disrespectful of all international conventions and agreements on human mobility, by the Government of Costa Rica.”

The Nicaraguan Deputy Foreign Minister said that Costa Rica caused “this situation by pushing these immigrants to cross our border illegally.”

Costa Rica did not consult Nicaragua with regards to whether it was in a position to deal with Cuban immigrants, said Rubiales. “You cannot take actions that have to do with the sovereignty of another state without any negotiation,” she argued.

Costa Rica sent a note of protest to Nicaragua in which it criticized the use of the Army and tear gas against immigrants, who include pregnant women and children

Nicaragua suggested that the issue of Cuban migrants must be addressed within the Central American Integration System (SICA).

In response to these accusations, Costa Rica sent a note of protest to Nicaragua in which it criticized the use of the Army and tear gas against immigrants, who include pregnant women and children, a measure which was also rejected by human rights organizations in Nicaragua.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González reported that his country would take to international organizations the problem of hundreds of Cuban migrants trying to reach the United States.

The minister said that talks were held on Sunday with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, to explain the situation and said that he “did not rule out” raising the issue in that forum.

In addition to the OAS, Gonzalez confirmed that this issue was discussed today in Ecuador, during a meeting of national coordinators of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in which his country responded “to a rude and unfounded statement by the Government of Nicaragua, which makes serious accusations against Costa Rica.”

This situation has made strained relations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua even more tense, the two countries have been at odds since 2010 over territorial disputes brought before the International Court of Justice.

The Secretary for International Relations of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), Jacinto Suarez, said it is possible the situation will “complicate” bilateral relations, “because they have been making some statements that seem to want to complicate things.”

This episode adds to the long list of disputes that Costa Rica and Nicaragua have maintained for years. In late 2010, Costa Rica filed a complaint before the International Court of Justice, for alleged invasion of its territory

However, according to Sandinista deputy Carlos Emilio López, the matter can be resolved through diplomatic channels.

“The Government of Nicaragua has a vocation for dialogue, of resolving conflicts through diplomacy. We hope that the governments can sit down together to find a solution to this situation,” said the official representative.

This episode adds to the long list of disputes that Costa Rica and Nicaragua have maintained for years. In late 2010,  Costa Rica filed a complaint before the International Court of Justice, for Nicaragua’s alleged invasion of Costa Rican territory in Isla Portillos, also known as Harbour Head Island, as part of a dredging project to connect the San Juan River with the Caribbean Sea.

Nicaragua, in turn,  protested a road being built by Costa Rica parallel to the tributary, alleging damages to the San Juan river from the construction.

Meanwhile Cubans, housed in shelters set up by the Red Cross, churches and civil society organizations, wait near the border with Nicaragua to continue their journey across the continent to reach the United States.

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