Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tropical Conquest

Costa Rica is a wonderful country. It really is a shame that it has been occupied by the Nicaraguan army.

Costa Rica has one of the strongest economies in Latin America, is active in international human rights, and is THE place to go if you want to see volcanoes, white sand beaches, rainforests, and tapirs. Nicaragua, on the other hand, is one of the poorest countries in Latin America with a long history of violence and corruption. In fact, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was recently mentioned in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable (courtesy of WikiLeaks) that claimed he was using illegal drug money to fund campaigns for his party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Costa Rica and Nicaragua have had disagreements in the past, but their recent territorial dispute has got to be one of the silliest.

Last month, Nicaraguan troops crossed the Costa Rican border because they received the real world equivalent of Monopoly's "bank error in your favor, collect $200" card. Google maps, the world's premier free online map system had goofed, accidentally ceding approximately 3 kilometers of Costa Rica's Isla Calero to Nicaragua. Nicaraguan government officials, instead of accepting the computer error for what it is, have claimed that this is all the justification that they need to take possession of the land. Costa Rica is unable to respond militarily because it constitutionally abolished its army in 1949. Because of this, Costa Rica has been forced to appeal to international organizations in order to resolve the issue, despite the clear cut nature of the situation. Google maps is not the final authority on border disputes, I'm sure of it. I can only assume that Costa Ricans feel like Mugatu in this scene here.

Costa Rica has appealed to the Organization of American States (OAS) to help resolve the issue, and has received support from a vast majority of the member nations. On November 12, The OAS ordered Nicaragua to remove its troops from the disputed territory in order to facilitate a negotiation between the two countries. President Ortega refused to comply. On December 7, the OAS issued a second order for Nicaragua to leave the area, again to no avail. The OAS does not have the power to ultimately decide on border disputes, so it seems that Costa Rica's only option is to wait until January 11, when the International Court of Justice at the Hague holds a court hearing.

While Costa Rica has been waiting for the OAS to produce results, Nicaragua has been busy building a canal in the disputed region that will be connected to Lake Nicaragua. Also, the Nicaraguan government is pushing for a National Security Law that would give it the legal grounds to officially declare Costa Rica a "threat to national security." The proposed legislation is in response to Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla's remark last week, when she stated that she considers Nicaragua to be an "enemy" to Costa Rica. Nicaraguan government official Francisco Aguirre said that such statements were bellicose and erratic. He said, "She's acting more Nicaraguan than Costa Rican."


This whole situation makes me wonder whether noted pacifist, author, and military expert Paul Chappell is right. He said we should utilize shame instead of violence against the world's wrongdoers. I think the OAS's ability to evoke shame has proven itself ineffective in this matter and that the Nicaraguan leadership could withstand any amount of shame thrown its way if it means it gets to build useful infrastructure on someone else's land and reap the economic benefits as a result. If and when the International Court of Justice finally decides the issue, Nicaragua will not be leaving the area empty handed.

1 comment:

Marshal Davout said...

This is unbelievably hilarious...for us, of course...not so much for the Costa Ricans. I love that Google dictates international policy now!

All I can say....Please let me get deployed to that peacekeeping operation!