In Costa Rica we often use the word “crisis” to describe anything that is not positive. “Crisis” replaced the word “Recession”, for example, which during the last eight months Costa Rica has been slowly recovering from.
But now we have two undeniable crises on our hands that do threaten our social and economic well being and only long term dedication as well as a unified focus will get us out of the hole.
As we enter the dry season and the high season for tourism, the cultivation of green crops such as lettuce, tomatoes, even coffee and as the government has been soliciting foreign investment from Asia, Europe and the United States we are now challenged on two fronts.
We have: The rains of November and the incursion of Nicaraguan soldiers on our soil.
Moreover, the world knows it.
Each results is a threat to our already fragile growth and will now test the mettle of Costa Rica for the remainder of this year, well into 2011 and perhaps beyond.
It is when the emotion of it all subsides that we will learn and should chart our course.
Because we still do not know the full impact, destruction of the downpours or the negative repercussions of the incursion of Nicaragua. It is imperative that we act in solidarity and that we act with knowledge rather than raw emotion which is sure to wane within a month or so and we again resort to putting band aides on open wounds.
Do not forget that after weeks of media and government pledges to the people of Cinchona who lost everything in the Poas earthquake, those people are still without homes after almost two years.
Our history reflects moving on rather than the completion of promises.
We are financially broke and have been, and now we are more broke. But that´s okay because we could not prevent the rains and probably could not have prevented the incursion of Calero either.
If it were not for the loss of tourism, investment and operational costs, the invasion would translate into a dark, very dark comedy highlighted by unabated stupidity.
It started with a complaint by Costa Rica that the Nicaraguans were dredging what legally is their river and depositing sediment on to Costa Rican territory. I suppose it is their river and dredging itself is not an issue. The only issue can be dumping sediment on our shores.
Then the story escalated into a classic farce of misunderstandings and miscalculations.
The indefinable revolutionary hero of the 1978-1979 Nicaraguan revolution, Eden Pastora, who appears now a few French fries short of a McDonalds “Happy Meal”, convinced Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, himself not a shinny penny that the Island Calero really is in Nicaraguan territory because that is what Google Maps show.
However, all, I mean 100% of the registered global legal boundary line maps clearly say the island belongs to Costa Rica and Google, the unintentional neo-war monger said, “Yes”, our map is in error and we need to fix it.
To make things more absurd, the foreign minister of Nicaragua immediately wrote to Google asking that the company not correct their mistake.
This is the movie “Dumb and Dumber” in real life and it is escalating into a needless drama.
This crisis has nothing to do with communism vs. capitalism but rather stupidity vs. sanity and there have been hundreds of tourist cancellations along both borders costing both countries major income.
Redirecting to the road closures, the floods, the deaths and homeless, it is up to Costa Rica to determine if the emotional rehabilitation promises are real or just a passing façade that will soon fade away. Where do we get the money? How will it be administered and when will tourists be able to land and go to their destinations as advertised?
We have always had problems reconstructing after a tragedy and the three day drenching certainly qualifies as a national tragedy of grand proportion. For some reason, in Costa Rica promises become less important within weeks.
However this crisis is real and the Central Valley, Central Pacific as well as Guanacaste are depending on government assistance to reconstruct impassable roads, make sure the public utilities indeed work, water is drinkable and replacement homes are constructed.
If we do not manage both of these crisis areas well, it will cost Costa Rica dearly for years to come and none of us can or want to accept that fate.
If we each do our part, however small, the healing process will be that much quicker and as members of society there is both an ethical as well as moral obligation to contribute to the rebuilding of our country which includes helping those thousands who have lost everything. I pray this tragedy does not turn into another Cinchona, a mission filled with corruption and incompetence by just about every ministry involved in the renovation process.
As to the incursion, only the CR executive branch of government will be able to solve that challenge and from the first I have questioned the wisdom of seeking a resolution from the OAS who (a) is powerless, (b) has never before defined border disputes and (c) I can count 5 possible strictly political votes in favor of Nicaragua.
Going to the UN Security Council is also a high risk for Costa Rica since Russia has veto power.
Probably the best strategy is hardcore diplomacy combined with informal, massive behind the scenes encouragement to promote cutting aide and assistance to Nicaragua until all troops are off the island. But that just makes dirt poor, more dirt poor. However, what other options are there?