Nicaraguan minister observed armed Tico patrols on river

SAN JOSE - The Nicaraguan Tourism minister and soon to be head of Defense, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro has assured that he saw "armed patrols" of Costa Rica's Fuerza Pública police officers traveling along the San Juan River, which has been an issue of growing differences between the two nations for the last three weeks.

Chamorro, who will become Defense Minister on September 1, gave declarations to daily La Prensa stating that even though Costa Rica has no army, the police officers are patrolling the river armed with M-16 rifles in speedboats and wearing camouflaged uniforms.

According to the La Prensa daily, Chamorro confirmed the presence of armed police on the river when he went there alongside a Costa Rican TV production group -led by Tico producer José Cortés- to shoot a documentary for the "El Planeta Azul" that will be broadcast tonight on local Channel 7.

Police contrast

The designated Defense minister held that, contrary to the Costa Rican police reports, the Nicaraguan soldiers that went with him to shoot the documentary were "traveling completely unarmed." He added that he is not opposed to Costa Ricans using the river for tourism reasons because according to him, that is the modern form of commerce, but he disapproved of them sailing heavily armed.

This version was confirmed yesterday by producer Cortés when La Nación questioned him. He specified that the documentary was shot between July 2 and 14 and that during one of the journeys they encountered a speedboat on which were traveling no less than four Costa Rican guards with long guns.

He said the guards were clearly "arrogant" towards them, which surprised the group, no less minister Chamorro. Cortés went on to say that this meeting was repeated a couple of hours later and the policemen did not even greet them back after they greeted them.

Nicaraguan authorities prohibited Costa Rican guards to travel along the river with arms on July 16, situation which has caused several differences among both countries governments.

The Honduran front

Meanwhile, Honduran President Carlos Flores yesterday denied the statements made by his Foreign Secretary Fernando Martínez on Saturday which stated that Honduras had offered Tegucigalpa as a city to mediate the dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

"The term mediator is out of line," said Flores yesterday. "We must reject this term immediately because it is not appropriate," Flores was quoted as saying by the Acan-EFE news agency.

The president did not deny however, his foreign secretary's statements about using the capital city as a neutral ground for negotiations. He even mentioned that his new position as pro témpore president of the Central American integration process can allow him to offer his "good services" in solving the conflict.

"The solution to the problem, if there is one, corresponds to a fluent and direct contact between them," he concluded in allusion to Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán and Costa Rican Miguel Angel Rodríguez.