Miskito Coast

Honduras grants title to Miskito territory

After 40 years of conflicts, protests and negotiations, the government of Honduras on Sept. 12 formally granted title to 654,496 hectares (about 1.6 million acres) to 128 indigenous communities on the remote Miskito Coast. With this move, the total land titled to Miskito indigenous communities in Honduras comes to nearly 970,000 hectares, more than 7% of the national territory, with a population of some 100,000. "With the recognition of the rights of the Miksito people to the lands of our ancestors, Honduras has taken an historic step that benefits all the world's indigenous peoples," said Norvin Goff, president of Moskitia Asla Takanka (MASTA), the organization that represented the communities in the talks.

Nicaragua: indigenous groups challenge canal plan

Nicaraguan civil society groups have challenged plans by a Hong Kong company to build an interoceanic canal through the Central American country. Last month, representatives of indigenous and Creole community groups from Nicaragua's South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS, see map) called on the country's Supreme Court to repeal the law allowing the construction of the canal. "The passing means that the state accepts and approves in advance [a project] that will affect peoples of indigenous and of African descent, who had been excluded from the decision-making process," the Nicaragua Center for Human Rights (CINDH) said in a statement. "There has to be a consultation with the indigenous population, because this project will affect the entire population with its own traditions and way of life," said Allen Clair Duncan, head of the communal government of Monkey Point, where a deep-water port is set to be built as part of the canal project.

Nicaragua raises stakes in border conflict

Edén Pastora, the Nicaraguan government official responsible for the dredging project on the Río San Juan—seen as a step towards a Nicaraguan inter-oceanic canal— confirmed to local media Feb. 6 that Managua has asked the International Court of Justice at The Hague for navigation rights on the Río Colorado, located entirely within Costa Rican territory. "This government of Daniel Ortega...applies the logic of  'what's good for the goose is good for the gander,'" he told Managua's Channel 15 TV. "if [Costa Rica] can navigate our waters, why can't we travel the waters of the Río Colorado, if 90% of its water is from the Río San Juan?" This is a reference to the fact that the Colorado is a branch of the San Juan, which is claimed in its entirety by Nicaragua—despite a pending case at The Hague over disputed islands.

Canal intrigues behind Nicaragua border disputes

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced Dec. 3 that his nation's ships are already exercising sovereignty over resource-rich Caribbean waters claimed by Colombia but granted to the Central American nation by the World Court last week. "At midnight on Sunday [Dec. 2] our ships sailed, they sailed to the recovered area, and by now they have established sovereignty in that whole territory," Ortega said in a message on television and radio. (Reuters, Nov. 26) The ships actually appear to be fishing boats, as Nicaragua has virtually no naval forces—while Colombia has dispatched warships into the disputed waters. Nicaraguan fishing boat captains told the English-language Nicaragua Dispatch that they are "fishing with fear" in the disputed waters beyond the 82nd meridian. "We are doing our part to support the government," said Carlos Javier Goff, president of the Copescharley fishing company out of Puerto Cabezas.  "We feel protected by the government and by the international community and, God willing, this won't go to extremes… it won't get beyond words and intimidation."

Colombia: war with Nicaragua 'last resort'

The presidents of both Colombia and Nicaragua on Dec. 1 expressed hope for avoiding war and using dialogue to resolve a territorial and maritime dispute following a recent ruling (ruling) on the issue by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ ended the dispute between the two nations by ruling that Colombia has sovereignty over a group of small islands in the western Caribbean, while Nicaragua has control over a large amount of the surrounding sea and seabed. Following the ruling Colombia withdrew  from the treaty binding the country to the ICJ's decisions. Both countries have placed warships in the disputed waters. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega stated that his country is discarding the use of force as an option and would use communication to achieve peace. Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos stated that war is a "last resort," and the way to fix the situation is through dialogue. Santos also stated that Colombia would seek to overturn the decision. Colombians have been protesting the ruling, staging nationwide marches.

Colombia rejects Hague ruling in Nicaragua maritime dispute

The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled Nov. 19 that a cluster of disputed islets off Central America's Caribbean coast belong to Colombia and not to Nicaragua—but drew a demarcation line in favor of Nicaragua in the disputed waters. The move immedaitely sparked protests in cities across Colombia, including Medellín, Cali and Cartagena. Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos flew to the island of San Andrés, the seat of the disputed archipelago, to support protests there. Slogans included "The fatherland is not for sale," "Why should we quit our sea?," and "ICJ, how much did the multinations give you for this ruling?" 

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