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Tensions high between Nicaragua, Costa Rica in border dispute

Costa rica nicaragua google maps image

An error on Google Maps that showed a strip of land belonging to Costa Rica in Nicaraguan territory has evolved into a tense international dispute between the Central American neighbors.

The government of Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla sued its neighbor at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, claiming that Nicargua is unlawfully sitting on land on the San Juan River that belongs to Costa Rica, near the river's mouth to the Carribbean (link in Spanish). Costa Rica is also claiming that Nicaragua is contaminating the river.

Nicaragua admitted that it used a Google Maps mistake, since corrected by the search engine giant, to send troops onto Calero Island, a territory it calls disputed. Nicaragua is dredging land there, and is refusing to pull back.

"Costa Rica is seeing its dignity smeared and there is a sense of great national urgency" to resolve the conflict, Chinchilla said, according to reports.

The San Juan River marks much of the eastern border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and has been the source of tension between the neighbors for more than a century. The crisis, now a diplomatic one, is getting complicated.

The Organization of American States told both governments to meet and settle the dispute, and requested Nicaragua remove its troops from Costa Rican territory. But Nicaragua refused to obey. An advisor to President Daniel Ortega upped the ante when he claimed in a television interview that Costa Rica contaminates the San Juan River and not the other way around (link in Spanish).

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Image: A screen-grab from Google Maps showing the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Credit: Google Maps

Comments () | Archives (9)

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If you people, USA inhabitants, stop day dreaming by getting drugs, our latinamerica problems will stop. You, and only you are to blame for the whole mess-

There are many things that have being saying about this dispute. Both side are sure that their demand is the rigth one, but we don't have enough information to have an opinion, even worts to have an idea about this dispute. In this affair nothing is white or black. There is a grey zone that we don't have the whole information. We have to be careful

Charles Garland. Great comment it's good to see someone that understands the real situation.

"Carlos Perez Macias" Comment is a great example of how Nicaragua's government is brainwashing it's people. Where to begin with...

First the problem is NOT about the dredging of the San Juan river, if you go to Costa Rica you'll see how EVERYONE admits that San Juan River belongs to Nicaragua, both costaricans and it's government admit Nicaragua's right to dredge their river.

About this affirmation: "they have polluted the river" both countries have contributed in the pollution of the river and maybe yes Costa Rica has affected more in the pollution but remember that Costa Rica has a bigger economy and consequently a more active agriculture plus 80% of the river water comes from Costa Rica. Who in ther right mind would suggest this was done on purpose?

About "changed the course to take the waters" so tell me where is all that water? Where are the changed water courses? Even Nicaragua's government have admitted (sometimes) that the fault is from global changes.

About: "Costa Rica is now threatening to further pollute the river with an open gold mine" I can see you don't read the news because that project has been stopped and in fact all open sky mining projecs have been banned by law, you see, costaricans respect the law, also that mine was going to be far from the river.

About: "This Nicaraguan right to drag the river was already resolved by previous international treaty" Yes you are correct, Costa Rica's goverment accepts it and costaricans also. Nicaragua has all their right to dredge their beloved river. That doesn't gives Nicaragua the right to invade Costa Rica's territory.

About: "They have no chance of wining at The Hague, because they have already resolved these conflict two years ago." The previous conflict was about Nicaragua not letting costarican police navigating San Juan River, it has nothing to do with Nicaragua invading Costa Rica's territory, kicking people from their farms with military force and destroying Costa Rica's territory by cutting down trees and making a canal wherever they want to.

This is all a strategy from Nicaragua's government to get Ortega re-elected for the third time (even if it's prohibitted by their constitution), also why do you believe Venezuela and Iran is supporting them... Tip: Nuclear plants and nuclear materials to make bombs, arms exchange and all sorts of corruption.

It's a very well known fact that Nicaragua's governments is corrupt and they have a huge narco problem inside their government and judiciary system. If you don't believe me then just read Nicaragua's newspapers.


To see the map from the treaty you can go to wikipedia and search for "San Juan River border dispute". That map proves what I have said and it's from the same treaty Mr. "Carlos" is reffering to, that map proves how all the territory to the right of the river belongs to Costa Rica, the map is from 1898.

And responding to "An American" comment do some investigation by yourself please. If you really are an American (from USA) then it may be interesting for you to know that your country plus the rest of the americas (except Venezuela and Bolivia) supported Costa Rica in the OAS forum and that Nicaragua didn't obey to their recommendations.

Oh and by the way how perfect is the timing for Nicaragua to go away from OAS so no one can come and check their presidential elections.

Well, antique maps DO show Nicaragua as the rightful owner of, not only a huge part of Costa Rica, but also of Honduras. Nicaragua has also a whole 'department' (state, in U.S. terms) named after the river it borders- Rio San Juan. Give it up, Costa Rica. We don't want your drugs being passed through there in U.S. soil. Nicaragua wins.

Here’s the real problem. This dredging was originally to be done on the north bank of the river, which is Nicaraguan controlled, and fine. However this has gone well beyond its scope, and is more like a canal project then a river dredging. So we have a Looney Tune President Ortega, with a questionable past. A very friendly Hugo Chavez and a small military that’s armed to the teeth by Iran. (Nicaraguan Military). Here’s what they are doing. They are building an alternative to the Panama Canal. One that will be free of the terms and security of the Panama Canal. One that Iran can ship nuclear arms through, one that is Open to North Korea, a canal that will serve as a free toll for Chavez’s nut job projects and millions of dollars in bribes to Ortega & friends... While this is going on our state department is worried about funding condominium projects. The only people who understand what is going on are the Costa Ricans, but they don't have a military. So Nicaragua is crapping all over them and heisting private property on the Costa Rican side of the boarder and for all intensive purposes no one in the US is paying any attention. What a mess this is going to become. Oh yea one other thing..The OAS is making a mockery of itself by even saying anything.

This conflict is not about Goggle making a mistake, this conflict is about the dragging of the San Juan river that is in Nicaraguan territory, Costa Rica has navigation rights over part of the river, but they have polluted the river and changed the course to take the waters. Costa Rica is now threatening to further pollute the river with an open gold mine that belong to a Canadian company. This Nicaraguan right to drag the river was already resolved by previous international treaty in which a US president was involved and by The Hague, the International Court of Justice.
The real intention of Costa Rica of going to Organization of American State with a frivolous action is to further discredit and weakens this instance trying to politicize a border problem that already has been resolved. They have no chance of wining at The Hague, because they have already resolved these conflict two years ago.
Dr. Perez Macias

Maria, thanks for your refreshing comment. So sad that the closest neighbors can become enemies over such trivial things. There is far more to unite here than there is to fragment...

Someone needs to get their facts straight. If you lived in this part of the world as I do, it would be readily apparent that Nicaragua's claim that it was a error on a Google map which caused the problem is just a smoke screen. Daniel Ortega, backed by money from ALBA and Hugo Chavez and perhaps Iran, wants a more direct route from the Caribbean to Nicaragua. If Google didn't exist, Ortega would have claimed the error was due to an old AAA map! The people both Nicaraguan and Costa Rican who live in that area are very well aware where the border lies. But, I guess it makes for better reading to say Google was at fault. The president of any country, or captain of any industry, who uses someone else's map to determine the boundaries of their own country is an idiot and should be fired, or ousted from office!

I am Costa Rican and feel really bad for all the Nicaraguans that are facing this situation in Costa Rica. I feel that they are going to be mistreated by us. I want to remind Costa Ricans that they are people just like us. They are clearly making a mistake (their government) and I think it will eventually be resolved. I think it will be resolved because the Nicaraguan government is only trying to make problems (communist) together with Hugo Chavez. I just want to tell the ticos no to be mean with the people that actually work in our country.


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