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Caribbean conflict

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The last thing that Central America needs is a territorial dispute, but the one between Nicaragua and Colombia appears to be growing worse by the day.

The two countries asked the Netherlands-based International Court of Justice to rule on the boundary of the San Andrés archipelago and its neighboring territorial waters.

The court issued a ruling last year that the islands are Colombian, but that Nicaragua has mineral right to the surrounding waters, which could have significant reserves of oil and natural gas.

But Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to accept the court's finding.

The disputed are is part of Colombia under the nation's Constitution, and not even the International Court can take it away, Santos has said.

For its part, Nicaragua has ordered two Russian missile cruisers, to back up its claims.

Meanwhile, Panama has taken sides on the dispute in favor of Colombia, while Costa Rica appears to be heading that way.

Ricardo Martinelli, Panama's president, has accused Nicaragua of "expansionism".

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega has encroached not only on Colombia's territorial waters but also on Panama's, says Martinelli, who will be sending a complaint to the United Nations, which will be also signed, he says, by Costa Rica. Jamaica was set to sign as well but finally desisted.

The dispute could cause economic problems for the region, in part because Colombia has in recent years become major investor in Central America.