Costa Rica border dispute with Nicaragua blamed on Google Maps

Thursday, April 18th, 2013 By

costa rica nicaragua border dispute along san juan river

A border dispute escalated when a Nicaraguan army commander blamed Google Maps for an erroneous incursion into Costa Rican territory. Image: CC nichcollins/Flickr

Costa Rica and Nicaragua are neighboring countries in Central America with a longstanding border dispute along the San Juan River. The Costa Rica/Nicaragua border dispute got serious last week when a Nicaraguan military commander led troops into Costa Rican territory. Costa Rica said Nicaragua had invaded its territory, while the commander said he was just following Google Maps, which showed that he was still in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua blames Google Maps for border incursion

Heavily armed Nicaraguan and Costa Rican security forces are standing off against each other across the San Juan River because of an error on Google Maps. Eden Pastora, a Nicaraguan military commander using Google Maps, moved troops into an area along the border with Costa Rica. Costa Rica accused Pastora of setting up camp, removing a Costa Rican flag, raising the Nicaraguan flag, dredging the San Juan River and dumping sediment in Costa Rican territory. La Nacion, Costa Rica’s largest newspaper, said Pastora used Google Maps to justify the incursion even though official maps used by both countries show the disputed area is Costa Rican territory.

Chinchilla and Sandinistas point fingers

Tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua escalated last week when president of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla addressed the nation to accuse the Nicaraguan army of an act of aggression. She sent heavily armed military police to the disputed territory an uninhabited river island in the jungle about 18 miles inland from the Caribbean Sea. Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government countered by accusing Costa Rica of invading its territory. President Daniel Ortega responded to Chinchilla’s national address with one of his own, accusing Costa Rica of threatening Nicaragua.

Google caught in the middle

Google has admitted to making the mistake that has fanned the flames of the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border dispute. The company said that the border on Google Maps was off by up to 2.7 kilometers because of an error in data obtained by the State Department. Costa Rica asked Google last week to correct the satellite map showing that the island belongs to Nicaragua. Not to be outdone, Nicaragua’s foreign ministry wrote Google the following day telling the company the map is fine just the way it is.



Miami Herald

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This post has 5 comments

  1. Sabanera says:

    We are proud that Nicaragua is doing as well as you said, that way anyone can write and be educated as you.
    Education is what Nicaragua needs, and not waist so much money on weapons and listening to a faded comandante zero a la izquierda.
    Perro que come perro , no es buen perro !!

    • mperez says:

      …"waste so much money" you mean. Waste is probably the word you were looking for…. It is not about listening to Daniel Ortega. He is not Nicaragua and I certainly wished he didn't represent it in any way. This is a matter of what is rightfully ours. Rio San Juan belongs to Nicaragua, there is no question about that. So shouldn't an island that is located in the river belong to Nicaragua as well? It is common sense, really. I have nothing against Costa Rica or its people, I do not agree with the sandinista methods or with a lot of things that go on in my country Nicaragua, but that does not mean I will support a country that wants to take even more land from us.

  2. Granada says:

    Nica troops are already in the area to combat the extensive drug trafficking that comes out of Costa Rica in the area. The bona fide military does not rely on any internet mapping business to delineate its borders. There is no "standoff" – its business as usual for the Nica Army and Navy. But "peace loving" Costa Rica has sent another 150 troops to the river border, in hopes of provoking something that they can then use to ask for US "intervention", an excuse to invade Nicaragua once again.

    It's also a ploy to take Costa Rican citizens' attention off the fact that the cost of electricity just went up 30% there and this, plus the declining tourism and the poor exchange rate is causing some tourist attractions and accomodations to close there, while Nicaragua's tourism flourishes and Nicaragua is now being featured on "Survivor".

  3. Granada says:

    Costa Rica is losing tourism market share while Nicaragua is gaining. Being sore losers in both the International Court of Justice and the free market, Costa Rica has resorted to creating this "international incident" in order to retry the subject in the court of public opinion, which they obviously dominate.

    No Nicaraguan troops have crossed the river into Costa Rica, yet Pres. Chinchilla cried "invasion" and sent 100 military police with machine guns and M16s to intimidate the dredging boat operator.

  4. Granada says:

    "Commander" Eden Pastora is the civilian in charge of the dredging operation on the Rio San Juan. He is not in the military, does not command any troops and did not move any troops anywhere. He is simply a lover of the limelight and after all the action was over, he taunted a Costa Rican newspaper that even google supported Nicaragua's claim to the tiny island in the middle of the river. This tiny island is the "territory" Pres. Chinchilla went all hysterical over, claiming "invasion" when there was none.

    This so-called "border dispute" was settled last year by the International Court of Justice, The Hague. It confirmed Nicaragua's ownership of the river and gave CR navigational rights only. Nicaragua has plans to develop tourism and a hydroelectric project in the area .

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