Nicaragua’s maritime dispute with Colombia heats up

On Feb. 11, the Nicaraguan navy captured the Honduran-flagged fishing boat Seas Star just east of the 82nd meridian in the Caribbean Sea. The 82nd meridian is claimed by Colombia as the border between its territorial waters and those of Nicaragua—a claim currently being contested by Managua before the World Court. Four crew members were onboard the Seas Star, with a full catch. A Nicaraguan police source said the crew was engaged in “piracy of the natural resources of Nicaraguan territory, and were detained in our jurisdictional waters.”

The seized boat is being held at El Bluff, in Nicaragua’s Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), while the crew members were turned over to immigration authorities for deportation. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega charged that Colombia had authorized illegal fishing in Nicaraguan waters. “Colombia should respect the ruling of the International Court of Justice at The Hague to avoid these types of incidents,” he said. (Nuevo Diario, Managua, Feb. 12)

Nicaraguan Minister of External Affairs Samuel Santos said his government hopes to resolve the dispute with Colombia through “dialogue,” in a “diplomatic and fraternal” manner. (EFE via La Prensa, Managua, Feb. 15) But Ortega explicitly invoked his alliance with Hugo Chávez and Venezuela’s own growing tensions with Colombia, saying, “Whoever touches Nicaragua touches Venezuela, and whoever touches Venezuela, touches Nicaragua.” (“La Plaza” blog, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19)

See our last posts on Nicaragua, Central America and the maritime dispute.