Territorial disputes of Nicaragua
The location of San Andres and Providencia in the Caribbean
In 1670 the English corsair Henry Morgan
took over the islands until 1689. In 1803, after Spain
's Viceroyalty of New Granada
had been re-established in 1739, the archipelago and the province of Veraguas
– covering the western territory of Panama
and the eastern coast of Nicaragua – were added to its area of jurisdiction. In the later colonial era the territory was administered from the province of Cartagena
After the Republic of Gran Colombia
gained independence in 1822, the inhabitants of the islands – who had been under the control of Louis-Michel Aury
– voluntarily adhered to Gran Colombia, and control over them was transferred to the department of Magdalena. Subsequently, the United Provinces of Central America
(UPCA) did not recognize the occupation of the islands and claimed ownership over them.
Colombia in turn protested the UPCA's occupation of the eastern coast of modern-day Nicaragua. The UPCA federation dissolved in civil war between 1838–1840, and the resulting state of Nicaragua carried on with the dispute, as did the Republic of the New Granada
(made up of modern Colombia and Panama) that emerged from the dissolution of Gran Colombia.
Colombia later established a local administration ("intendencia") in the islands in 1912. The signing of the Esguerra-Bárcenas treaty in 1928 between both governments temporarily resolved the dispute in favor of Colombia. (Colombia and Honduras
signed a maritime boundary treaty in 1999 which implicitly accepted Colombian sovereignty over the islands.) However, since 1980, when the Sandinista
government assumed power in Nicaragua, a constitutional reform
was enacted and the treaty was renounced.
Nicaraguans claimed that the treaty was signed under United States
pressure and military occupation and thus did constitute a sovereign decision, while Colombia argued that the treaty's final ratification in 1930, when U.S. forces were already on their way out, confirmed its validity.
In 2001 Nicaragua filed claims with the ICJ over the disputed maritime boundary involving 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi) in the Caribbean, which included the islands of San Andrés and Providencia. Colombia had claimed that the ICJ had no jurisdiction over the matter and had increased its naval and police presence in the islands. In a preliminary decision the Court sided with Colombia on the question of sovereignty over the islands (47 km2 or 18 sq mi) and agreed with Nicaragua that the 82nd meridian (West) is not a maritime border.
On 19 November 2012, the ICJ decided this case by upholding Colombia's sovereignty over San Andres y Providencia, and other disputed islands.
These included Quitasueño
, around which the court established territorial zones of 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) in radius. The ICJ also expanded Nicaragua's maritime territory, thereby surrounding both island banks.
The ICJ found that only one of 54 features identified by Nicaragua within Quitasueño Bank is an island at high tide.
The ICJ considered that the use of enclaves achieved the most equitable solution.
Fishermen worried that the court "had created 'enclaves' around Quitasueño and Serrana that could restrict the fishermen's longtime access there."
Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador
have a coastline along the Gulf of Fonseca
, a closed sea under international law, and have been involved in a lengthy dispute over the rights to the gulf and the islands located there. Each enjoys a 3-nautical-mile (5.6 km) littoral zone
of sovereignty along its shores and islands in the gulf.
In 1992 a chamber of the ICJ decided the Land, Island and Maritime Frontier Dispute, of which the gulf dispute was a part. El Salvador was awarded the islands of Meanguera and Meanguerita, and Honduras was awarded the island of El Tigre
. Nicaragua was not a party to that dispute and is therefore not bound by the decision.
The ICJ determined that Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador were to share control of the remaining water area in the gulf as a "tridominium
" shared in common. The littoral zones abut each other in a way that forms two separate areas of tridominium waters in the gulf. The eastern area is bordered by the zones of all three countries. The larger western area (about 235 km2
) is bordered only by the waters of El Salvador and Nicaragua and the closing line of the gulf, such that one cannot travel within the gulf from Honduras to the enclosed western area except by passing through El Salvadoran and Nicaraguan waters.
All three nations are "entitled outside the closing line to territorial sea, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone. Whether this situation should remain in being or be replaced by a division and delimitation into three separate zones is, as inside the Gulf also, a matter for the three States to decide."
Boundary dispute along the San Juan River
A sketch of the Greytown (i.e.
, San Juan del Norte
) harbor area, contained in the first arbitral award given by Gen. Edward Porter Alexander
on Sep. 30, 1897, indicating the boundary line between Nicaragua and Costa Rica as determined by that award. Alexander had been assigned by U.S. president Grover Cleveland
to resolve the ambiguities in the location of the frontier set by the Cañas-Jerez Treaty of 1858.
Map, dated March 2, 1898, from the official proceedings of the binational commission presided by engineer arbitrator Gen. Edward Porter Alexander
, to define the frontier between the Republics of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
According to the Cañas-Jerez Treaty of 1858, as reaffirmed and interpreted by the arbitration of U.S. president Grover Cleveland
in 1888 and by the judgment of the Central American Court of Justice in 1916 [permanent dead link]
, the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica runs along the right bank of the San Juan River
, from its mouth in the Caribbean
port of San Juan del Norte
(formerly known as Greytown), to a point located 5 km (3 mi) downstream from an old fortification known as Castillo Viejo
("Old Castle"), originally built to guard the access to Lake Nicaragua
Nicaragua is therefore sovereign over all of the Río San Juan
, but Costa Rica has the perpetual right to navigate with "purposes of commerce" over the part of the river where the right bank is the border between the two countries. Costa Rica also has the right to accompany shipments of merchandise with "revenue cutters" to help ensure the payment of tariffs
(a stipulation which has been rendered obsolete by the free trade agreements among Central American countries), but president Cleveland's 1888 award denied Costa Rica the right to navigate the river with "vessels of war," except with the consent of Nicaragua.
The treaty of 1858 also states that no taxes would be imposed on Costa Rican trade in goods, except by mutual agreement. A dispute emerged in 1998 when Nicaragua forbade the transit of Costa Rican policemen in the river, which Nicaragua claimed to be a breach of sovereignty, and imposed a US$25 fee, as well as a visa requirement, for any Costa Rican tourists who entered the San Juan River, alleging that the Spanish language phrase con objetos de comercio
, which had usually been translated (including in President Cleveland's awards) as "with purposes of commerce," in fact had to be read as "with articles of commerce," and that tourists were not "articles."
Costa Rica filed suit before the International Court of Justice
(ICJ), in The Hague
, which ruled in 2009 that con objetos de comercio
had to be read as "with purposes of trade," and that Nicaragua had therefore breached its treaty obligations by preventing free navigation with purposes of commercial tourism. The ICJ also ruled that Costa Rican police forces did not have the right to navigate the San Juan River with arms and ammunition, or to use the river to resupply their posts along the right bank. The ICJ also ruled that Nicaragua was obliged to recognize a customary right by Costa Rican inhabitants of the right bank of the river to practice subsistence fishing.
Historically, the dispute over the San Juan River has been exacerbated by the possibility that it might become part of a Nicaragua Canal
connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The opening of the Panama Canal
in 1914, as well as Nicaragua's current construction of a dry ecocanal
, have reduced the importance of the San Juan River as a possible route for interoceanic trade and have therefore, to some extent, eased the tensions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica over use of that waterway. Disputes between the two countries concerning the river and the associated frontier have nonetheless recurred in recent years.
2010 Isla Calero dispute
A map depicting the border lines in the area near San Juan del Norte
, as disputed by Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Oct. 2010.
In October 2010, a dispute began between Costa Rica and Nicaragua regarding the dredging of 33 kilometres (21 mi) of the San Juan River
by the Nicaraguan government in the area of Isla Calero
Costa Rica claims that violation of its sovereignty took place as Nicaraguan troops had entered Costa Rican territory, and the dredging of the river caused environmental damage in the wetlands
at Isla Calero
, which is part of the island nature reserve
, in an area that is owned by the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment
Nicaragua rejected all claims and replied that, in fact, Costa Ricans had been invading their territory.
The Costa Rican government responded by sending 70 police reinforcements to the border area on October 22.
Nicaragua stationed around 50 soldiers in Isla Calero
Costa Rica claimed it was a military incursion and presented a complaint before the Organization of American States
(OAS). On November 12, by a vote of 22 to 2, the OAS ambassadors approved a resolution requesting Costa Rica and Nicaragua to pull out their troops from a conflict zone along their common border and to hold talks to settle their dispute.
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega
discarded the possibility of withdrawing the troops and disregarded OAS resolution because his government considers that this organization does not have jurisdiction to resolve border disputes.
On November 18, 2010, Costa Rica filed proceedings against Nicaragua in the ICJ.
1825 Guanacaste Province
In an 1825 plebiscite, the region of Partido de Nicoya
chose to be part of Costa Rica, becoming Guanacaste Province
. Costa Rica annexed Guanacaste, in exchange for giving up its claims to sovereignty over the San Juan River and the Canal Route. However, when tensions between the nations rose over Costa Rica's rights of navigation on the river in 2013, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega
claimed Guanacaste province belonged to Nicaragua.
- ^ International Court of Justice, The Hague (19 November 2012). "TERRITORIAL AND MARITIME DISPUTE (NICARAGUA v. COLOMBIA)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2012.
- ^ a b Kraul, Chris (20 November 2012). "Disputed islands belong to Colombia, court rules". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
- ^ a b Bekker, Pieter (15 January 2013). "The World Court Awards Sovereignty Over Several Islands in the Caribbean Sea to Colombia and Fixes a Single Maritime Boundary between Colombia and Nicaragua" (PDF). Insight (American Society of International Law). 17 (3). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
- ^ Gómez Cruz, Ricardo Alonso (October 2004). Elementos Jurídicos para la Construcción de una Propuesta Tendente a la Recuperación Material y la Soberanía de la Isla Conejo en el Golfo de Fonseca (Legal Elements for the Construction of a Proposal to the Material Recovery and Sovereignty of Isla Conejo in the Gulf of Fonseca) (PDF) (Thesis). Universidad de El Salvador, Ciudad Universitaria, San Salvador, El Salvador. p. 33, 36, 46, 49 and 50. Retrieved 2013-07-04.
- ^ Case Concerning Land, Island, and Maritime Frontier Dispute (El Salvador/Honduras, Nicaragua Intervening) (International Court of Justice 1992).Text
- ^ a b Huezo Urquilla, Luis Salvador (July 1993). La controversia fronteriza terrestre, insular y maritima entre El Salvador y Honduras, y Nicaragua como país interviniente (Thesis). Universidad Dr. José Matías Delgado, San Salvador, El Salvador. Retrieved 2013-07-14.
- ^ John Bassett Moore, History and digest of the international arbitration to which the United States has been a party, (U.S. House of Representatives, vol. V, Misc. Doc. No. 212, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1898), p. 5079; United Nations Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XXVIII, p. 222, (2007).
- ^ Original from the proceedings of the Alexander Commission, p. 33. Dated 2 March 1898. Image taken from Charlie Hale, "Regarding the Boundary Between Costa Rica and Nicaragua," Google LatLong Blog, 5 Nov. 2010.
- ^ a b Grover Cleveland, "Award of the President of the United States in Regard to the Validity of the Treaty of Limits Between Costa Rican and Nicaragua of 15 July 1858, Decision of 22 March 1888." First published in John Basset Moore, History and Digest of the International Arbitrations to Which the United States has been a Party, vol. II (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1898), p. 1946. Reproduced in the United Nations Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XXVIII, pp. 189-236 (2006)
- ^ a b International Court of Justice, Case concerning the Dispute regarding Navigational and Related Rights (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua) Summary of the Judgment of 13 July 2009Archived 24 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ Frank Jacobs (February 28, 2012). "The First Google Maps War". The New York Times.
- ^ Arguedas, Carlos; Oviedo, Esteban (2010-10-23). "Gobierno halla destrucción en humedal limítrofe con Nicaragua" [Government destroys wetland bordering Nicaragua]. La Nación (in Spanish). San Jose, Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2010-10-26. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
- ^ a b Marianela Jimenez (2010-11-02). "Costa Rica denounces alleged Nicaraguan incursion". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
- ^ a b "Nicaraguan VP: No Border Zone Troop Withdrawal". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
- ^ a b "Dredging up votes: Daniel Ortega and the swamps of opportunism". The Economist. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
- ^ Alvaro Murillo (2010-11-12). "Arias critica manejo de conflicto y propone trasladarlo a la ONU" [Arias criticizes conflict management and proposes moving it to the UN]. La Nación (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-11-16.
- ^ "OAS urges pullout of Costa Rican, Nicaraguan troops". Yahoo! News. 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
- ^ "Tropas se mantendrán en territorio nicaragüense". La Prensa (in Spanish). Managua. 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
- ^ Alvaro Murillo (2010-11-18). "Costa Rica lleva conflicto a Corte de La Haya" [Costa Rica takes conflict to The Hague Court]. La Nación (in Spanish). Retrieved 2010-11-21.
- ^ "Costa Rica institutes proceedings against Nicaragua and requests the Court to indicate provisional measures" (PDF) (Press release). International Court of Justice Press Release No. 2010/38. 2010-11-19. Retrieved 2010-11-21.[permanent dead link]
- ^ "Nicaragua's Ortega threatens to 'reclaim' Costa Rican province". Tico Times. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
- ^ "Nicaragua Claims Costa Rica Tourist Area". World Property Journal. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
- ^ "Nicaragua Thinks It Owns Guanacaste". Tropical Daily. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
Case Concerning The Territorial Dispute Nicaragua V. Colombia
. United Nations Publications. 2004. p. 8. ISBN 92-1-070983-7
Last edited on 26 April 2021, at 03:00
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