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Geopolitics of the Colombia-Nicaragua spat

February 19, 2008 |  5:09 pm

Colombia's dispute with Nicaragua over three Caribbean islands and thousands of square miles of rich fishing grounds surrounding them has heated up.

Nicaraguan naval vessels seized a Honduran fishing boat east of the 82nd meridian in waters claimed by Colombia. Days later Colombian ships drove Nicaraguan fishing boats out of the same area, prompting a Nicaraguan note of protest. Tensions have risen since the International Court of Justice ruled in December to uphold a 1928 treaty that gave Colombia possession of the islands Providencia, San Andres and Santa Catalina. But the court also said it would consider whether Nicaragua might have a legitimate claim to territorial waters, also now controlled by Colombia. assured the Organization of American States that it would resolve the dispute "by means of dialogue."

Ever since, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has maintained that Colombia's claim to fishing grounds are invalid, and made statements implying that Nicaragua would not shy away from using its military to enforce its claim. He alluded to his alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"Whoever touches Nicaragua touches Venezuela, and whoever touches Venezuela touches Nicaragua," Ortega told reporters recently. On Thursday, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos

The Colombian government has remained silent in the face of Ortega's darts. In an interview with the Colombian magazine Semana, former Foreign Minister Augusto Ramirez Ocampo said Ortega was deliberately trying to provoke Colombia to help his friend and patron Chavez by "internationalizing" Chavez's criticism of Colombia as a warlike nation, useful in his campaign to legitimize the leftist rebel group FARC.

-- Chris Kraul in Bogota

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