Costa Rica border dispute with Nicaragua blamed on Google Maps

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.

Sources

Wired

Miami Herald

Search Engine Land

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