The Cañas-Jerez Treaty of 1858 and the Cleveland Arbitration Act of 1888 assigned ownership of the river to Nicaragua but granted Costa Rica the right to navigate freely in it. Problems arise when the Nicaraguan government prohibits the Costa Rican boundary police from patrolling the river to control the big inflow of immigrants who daily enter clandestinely into Costa Rica.
In the past, some Nicaraguan politicians have liked to stir public opinion in their country on the most meaningless things against the Ticos. Such was the case in early 2002 when their president said that Costa Rica was stealing one of their saints from them. Nicaraguan-born Sor María Romero, a Catholic nun who had spent more than 40 years in Costa Rica doing her exemplary charitable work, was beatified by the Pope in April 2002. The Costa Rican Catholic Church rebuked the Nicaraguan president by stating that the saints belong to the world and not to any one country alone.
Although travel and guidebooks don't say much about the Indians of Costa Rica, it's well known these have existed in the territory long before Columbus arrived. The July 2000 census reported the total aborigine population to be 63,800. Today 22 Indian tribes are dispersed in the same number of clusters starting with the northernmost Malekus at Guatuso and extending to the Guaymis at Conte Burica in the south near the border with Panama. Each has its own dialect and most speak Spanish.. They all have their citizenship identification which grants them the same rights enjoyed by the rest of the population. Subsistence farming is their principal way of earning a livelihood and some produce nice handicrafts.
Members of the Quitirrisí of the Huetar tribe located between the towns of Ciudad Colón and Puriscal are skilled in making baskets and Panama-style hats from a special palm leaf found locally. Several government educational and health programs have been established to try to lift the aborigine population from its perennial poverty, but more assistance is needed.
Much emphasis is being given to protect their territorial rights which are often threatened by unscrupulous outsiders. The Bribrí tribe, located in the Talamanca Mountains, has its own radio station with programs in its own dialect. The same applies to the Maleku. Although the Indians are accepted in national life, their integration has been difficult to achieve primarily due to their geographical isolation. An estimated 75% still live in their aboriginal communities.