Hundreds of disaffected Nicaraguans are calling for a border change and new passports as citizens of Costa Rica.

Their protest is part of a separatist movement led by a community long forgotten and consigned by politicians to national obscurity.

But their demands have been flatly rejected by President Arnoldo Aleman this week who said no territory will be ceded to Costa Rica.

There’s little patriotic fervour in this southern Nicaraguan town of Cardenas.

The people who live here consider themselves more Costa Rican than Nicaraguan.

So much so that they and several hundred others along the nearby border want to become Costa Rica’s newest citizens.

The issue is a sensitive territorial one.

Their view is that, for years, this has been Nicaragua’s forgotten frontier – a rural economy with poor local infrastructure.

Local dependency goes south across the border rather than north to the capital.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“The people here have a card to receive medical assistance in Costa Rican medical centres, the people here get their grades from Costa Rican schools, the people here are from Costa Rica. Not long ago the Costa Rican’s came to patrol this road. Nobody else has been here before.”
SUPER CAPTION: Aurelio Salinas, Cardenas resident

Some 1-thousand people live in the municipality of Cardenas.

It is one of five villages caught in a separatist struggle that led, in 1995, to a bid to the United Nations by 5-thousand Nicaraguans for status as an independent republic.

The act was denounced by Managua as one of political piracy.

But the search for new nationalistic status remains strong.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“At least I have my house and I farm a little piece of land, but there are many people here who feel completely abandoned, and how are we going to move forward if not even the government – either past or present – wants to provide services for us. We are going to find someone who will.”
SUPER CAPTION: Marcial Obondo, Cardenas resident

Such unpatriotic demands have fallen on deaf ears in Managua.

President Arnoldo Aleman declared on Wednesday there would be no transfer of territory to Costa Rica.

But he agreed the region had fallen into political obscurity and vowed to inject greater resources into the region.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
” We inherited a bankrupt country, we are at the moment creating economic growth in Nicaragua, and we are on the path to development but we do have also to take care of marginalised areas.”
SUPER CAPTION: Arnoldo Aleman, Nicaraguan President

Visitors to the region could be forgiven for thinking Cardenas has already become part of Costa Rica.

Television channels, education, culture and even the money is Costa Rican.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“It is inevitable that the resident of Cardenas will see at very close quarters the development of Costa Rica. They feel a great need to be able to dream of being part of Costa Rica’s development.”
SUPER CAPTION: Martin Flores, Deputy Mayor of Cardenas

On Wednesday, a group of government officials travelled south to begin a process of repatriation through local projects and financial investment.

But such efforts have been long in coming and arrive possibly too late in the day.

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