Global Politics

Nicaragua and Costa Rica battle over border

The Central American nations of Nicaragua and Costa Rica are at odds over a border dispute.

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It's not the first time that's happened. The two countries have a history of squabbling about where the border is precisely along one particular stretch. The disputed territory is along that part of the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border that follows the San Juan River. It's where the river meets the Caribbean coast that things get complicated. The area is swampy and there are numerous channels winding through wetlands that make for a confusing landscape.

By treaty, the San Juan river itself belongs entirely to Nicaragua, and Nicaragua has the right to dredge the river. That's what the Nicaraguans started doing recently, in an operation that involves the country's military.

Costa Rica claims that Nicaragua invaded its territory in the process. The Costa Rican government filed a protest with the Organization of American States, the regional diplomatic body.

Costa Rican ambassador Enrique Castillo told an OAS meeting that this is not just a border dispute.

�This is an invasion of armed forces on Costa Rican territory,� Castillo told an OAS meeting.

He added it's an �occupation of this territory by military and civil employees of Nicaragua.�

But Nicaragua isn't ceding any ground. Ambassador Denis Moncada told the OAS meeting that Nicaragua has NOT violated Costa Rican territory in any way.

He offered to sit down and talk about it. But Costa Rica is refusing to until Nicaragua withdraws its soldiers from the disputed area.

At the moment both sides appear unwilling to give an inch. And both sides continue to invoke the name of Grover Cleveland.

He was President of the United States when Costa Rica and Nicaragua argued over this very same stretch of the border back in the late 1800′s. Cleveland sent a former confederate general named Edward P. Alexander to survey the area. Alexander drew a detailed map in an effort to end the dispute once and for all.

But the squabble between Nicaragua and Costa Rica continues. Now, diplomats at the OAS are urging the two neighbors to negotiate. Ambassador Bayney Karran of Guyana says the two parties must block the impasse, for the good of the region.

�We implore,� says Karran, �that they seek to give our region more reason for optimism in this matter.�

By the way, even Google Maps is confused about where the boundary between Nicaragua and Costa Rica meets the Caribbean. When a Nicaraguan official tried to use Google Maps to support his country's position, Costa Rica objected and Google was forced to admit its map was wrong.

The company says it will fix the error as soon as possible. The dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica will likely take longer to resolve.