Friday, November 19, 2010

Who controls Calero Island?

Tensions between the neighboring countries of Costa Rica and Nicaragua continue to be high over the sovereignty of a disputed territory known as the Calero Island. Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza insisted that both countries seek a peaceful resolution through dialogue but it doesn’t look like that will occur any time soon.

Yesterday Costa Rica 's foreign ministry filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Nicaraguan troops invaded Costa Rican territory and this "threatens imminent and irreparable harm" to Costa Rica according to the case filed with the U.N.’s highest court. The suit requests that the ICJ halt Nicaraguan plans to build “a canal on Costa Rican soil” and also claimed that environmental damage is occurring due to a Nicaraguan “dredging project” along the San Juan River.

Nicaraguan officials denied that their troops invaded Costa Rican territory and instead alleged that the Calero Island sits on the Nicaraguan side of the border. Nicaraguan Ambassador to the OAS Denis Moncada said that his country will also file suit at the ICJ and that the OAS has “no jurisdiction” over the matter. The OAS previously urged that Nicaraguan troops leave the disputed area yet President Daniel Ortega said that the troops would stay on the island “indefinitely.”

The border dispute is best known over claims that Nicaragua occupied Calero Island due to a glitch in Google Maps. But an article in the New York Times insinuated that Nicaraguan soldiers deliberately crossed the border in order to encourage nationalist support for Ortega. The article also linked to a Tico Times interview with Ortega where he said that the controversial dredging operation is legal via a previous ICJ decision on the San Juan River.

Blogger Kevin Alvarez expressed his disgust over the “pissing contest” between Ortega and his Costa Rican counterpart Laura Chinchilla over Calero Island. Though he places most of the blame on Ortega, he also points the finger at Chinchilla for seeking "quick political capital":
Gaining sovereignty over Isla Calero will not solve Costa Rica or Nicaragua’s problems. It will rile Central American against Central American and reignite distrust between these two neighbors. Not only will this not alleviate poverty, reduce corruption (it might increase), or make one nation stronger than the other but it will prolong the hostility in Latin America over lines in sand/water/earth drawn by colonial conquerors and liberators long ago.
Image- Google Earth via The Guardian (“Google Earth shows the stretch of land at the center of the Central American dispute.”)
Online Sources- El Sueno de Bolivar, Americas Quarterly, CNN, LAHT, Tico Times, New York Times


ttv said...

Wow! This is very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Actually yesterday the Hague declared this Costa Rican soil and ordered Nicaragua to fill it in and start remediation. Ortega is a bully and will not likely do either one. Costa Rica does not have an army so someone will have to step in. There is some talk about getting a defense force together.Neither country needs this. Actually, the land is literally at the end of the world too.