Miskito Coast

Costa Rica to sue Nicaragua over offshore oil blocs

The Costa Rican government announced Feb. 4 that it is preparing to file a new complaint against Nicaragua with the International Court of Justice at The Hague, accusing Managua of offering Costa Rican maritime territory to international oil companies. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has dismissed the charges, stating the area in question clearly falls within the country’s maritime borders, as outlined by an ICJ ruling of November 2012. The announcement marks the third ICJ case between the two nations. Costa Rica filed the first complaint in November 2010, accusing Nicaragua of seizing Isla Portillo (also known as Isla Calero and Harbour Head Island) in the Río San Juan, which forms the common border. In December 2012, Nicaragua filed a grievance charging that Costa Rica's construction of a highway along the San Juan was causing environmental damage. The first claim was upheld by the ICJ in n November 2013, with the court ordering Managua to remove all personnel and equipment from the disputed island. In December 2013, the Court rejected the second claim, finding that “Nicaragua has not...established the existence of a real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights invoked" in the highway project.

Panama, Nicaragua canal plans stalled

Construction of a interoceanic canal in Nicaragua has been delayed by a year and will "probably" begin in 2015. The head of the canal authority, Manuel Coronel Kautz, announced Jan. 4 that more time is needed to carry out feasibility studies and choose a route. President Daniel Ortega, who promotes the project as key to Nicaragua's "economic independence," had projected construction to start in May 2014. (BBC News, Jan. 4) The setback comes as Chinese workers brought in by HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd are swelling the population of Brito, a small town projected as the canal's Pacific terminus, in Rivas department. (IBT, Dec. 12)

Panama ups ante in Nicaragua canal race

The current expansion of the Panama Canal will allow close to 90% of the world's 370-vessel liquified natural gas (LNG) fleet to pass through by 2015, the Panama Canal Authority announced Oct. 30. Currently the canal can accommodate only 8.6% of the global LNG fleet. Voyages to Asia from the US will cost 24% less than longer routes, according to the authority. The US, now the world's top natural gas producer due to extraction from shale rock, is projected to  become the third-largest LNG exporter by 2020. Excavation to double the Panama Canal's capacity, which began in 2007, is said to be 64% complete. (Bloomberg, Nov. 4; Platts, Oct. 30; IBT, Sept. 20)

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.

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