Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Google Maps changes Costa Rica-Nicaragua border depiction

Google Maps' depiction of the border region in October 2010
Google Maps' depiction in April 2011
Google Maps has changed its portrayal of the controversial Costa Rica-Nicaragua border, giving Isla Calero back to Costa Rica.

In autumn 2010, Google Maps found itself at the centre of a border dispute, when its maps were highlighted by Nicaraguan politician and former military leader Eden Pastora as proof that his troops did not invade Costa Rica by occupying Isla Calero.

While the problem of a state relying on a private company like Google to supply information of its territorial claims were clear to see, the dispute took off over other, related issues of ownership in the region, and Costa Rica eventually took Nicaragua to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.

The ICJ made its preliminary ruling on 8th March, when it ordered both countries to withdraw all troops and personnel from the disputed area. The exception to this is that Costa Rican civilians are allowed in the area for the purpose of environmental protection. The ICJ ruled that Costa Rica should consult with the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, which governs wetlands, and inform Nicaragua prior to taking action.

The Nicaraguan government complained on Sunday 3rd April that Costa Rica had violated this part of the ruling, and said it would file a complaint with the ICJ on Monday. Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry official Cesar Vega said that in March, Costa Rican civilian staff had entered the conflict zone accompanied by Ramsar Convention representatives to verify environmental damage caused by Nicaragua along the San Juan River.

While seemingly in line with the ICJ ruling, Nicaragua considered this a violation of the decision because they were not informed prior to the visit and have yet to receive an official Ramsar report describing the inspection.

While it is true that the infraction by Costa Rica seems minor, communication between the two sides is crucial in maintaining decent relations. Costa Rica has accused Nicaragua of acting in 'bad faith' over the incident, but the same could certainly be said of Costa Rica. The ICJ ruling was clear on the issue, and it is up to both sides to uphold the ruling in every way.

Sources: Xinhua, UPI, Inside Costa Rica

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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