Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nicaraguan "Invasion" caused by Google Maps - or maybe not.

Nicaragua invaded Costa Rica because of an error on Google Maps! At least that's the story being tossed around the internet in articles like this one and in Wired. Of course like many stories, the truth appears to be more complicated and less satirical. Ogle Earth has an excellent summary of the border dispute. Here are some basics:
  • The eastern part of the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is the San Juan River. 
  • The south bank (and sometimes east) of the river belongs to Costa Rica. The river belongs to Nicaragua but Costa Rica is allowed to use it for commerce.
  • Google maps incorrectly shows the border deviating from the river course giving a part of the Isla Calero to Nicaragua. Bing is basically correct although the alignment between the border and the river is poor.
  • In late October, Nicaraguan troops occupied a part of this land and began clearing the forest and dredging the river channel.
  • Costa Rica no longer has an official military to defend their land.
  • The official map that each country provided to the International Court of Justice both show the same border-along the river's main channel.
  • After the fact, the Nicaraguan government discovered the google error and used it to justify the troop incursion- from this article(translated.)
  • Nicaragua also uses historical changes in the course of the river channel to justify their claims

Here is a map of the area claimed by Nicaragua from Managua's La Prensa. The red line is claimed to have been the course of the river in 1897 when US President Grover Cleveland arbitrated a more detailed boundary (than the 1888 settlement) for this area.

However, the UN Settlement includes this map and contradicts Nicaragua's claim. The settlement clearly states that the boundary follows the main branch of the river and not the Taura Branch as claimed by Nicaragua.

Still, if you want to blame google maps go ahead - join the crowd!
UPDATE: Brandon T. sent me this video from newsy about the border dispute. Thanks!

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1 comment:

Michael5000 said...

I like that the local village is "Greytown" -- one of those great English names on the Nicaragua coast, which if I remember right were basically pirate bases back in the day.