Google Maps Error Triggers “Accidental” Invasion Of Costa Rica By Nicaragua

Mihai-Silviu Chirila

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There is no secret that Internet has a vital (and sometimes lethal) influence on our personal lives, facilitating us to meet interesting people, to get stimulating jobs, to acquire knowledge not even libraries can provide.

There is an entire life going on the Internet, a real one, at least as much as real as the one we are leading after we shut down the computer.

It comes in support of the claims above the fact that Internet was able to create a war between two states.

There was a time when world leaders were playing on the world map redesigning frontiers between countries and continents. Nowadays, it doesn’t take peace conferences to render countries larger or smaller. All it takes is a Google Maps mistake, as you are about to see.

Due to a mistake made by Google Maps in charting the borders between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the latter felt free to invade the neighboring country and claim the territory in “dispute.”

The dispute is over a parcel of territory on the Atlantic Coast, known as Calero Island. Nicaragua invaded it claiming it as its own, while Costa Rica says it has been invaded.

The President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, said on Wednesday her country was ready to take the dispute to the United Nations and let this international body rule on the matter.

These comments came after Costa Rica offered Nicaragua a 48-hour deadline to pull its troops out. Costa Rica has no military and therefore relies entirely on the international bodies to solve this sort of problems.

The Organization of American States was the first international organization that got involved in solving the dispute. Thus, OAS secretary-general Jose Miguel Insulza said, after talking to Presidents Laura Chinchilla and Daniel Ortega, that both sides agreed to talk and to not escalate the military and police presence at the boarder.

Chinchilla said she accepted OAS’s recommendation but added that before talks become available the Nicaraguans must retreat from their territory. “It is not legitimate to go to bilateral talks while our territory is under occupation,” Costa Rican president said.

She promised that Costa Rican police will not enter the area in dispute as soon as the Nicaraguan military pulls out.

Nicaraguan Vice President Jaime Morales Carazo said that though Costa Rica has no army, its police force is better equipped than the Nicaraguan soldiers.

He urged the Costa Rican authorities to solve the conflict like brothers, but also stressed that his country is not the aggressor, because “we cannot invade our own floor.”

Apart form military troops, Costa Ricans claim that a dredging project of the river in the zone dumps sediments on their side of it, and that a Costa Rican flag was replaced with a Nicaraguan one.

Nicaragua invaded the disputed territory near San Juan Lake on November 4, as military commander Eden Pastora, relying on Google Maps, moved troops into the area, took a Costa Rican flag down and placed a Nicaraguan one on the spot.

Costa Rican largest newspaper, La Nacion, said Pastora was using Google map’s error to justify invasion.

Google said that the company has no idea where the error comes from. Earlier this year it announced it had made some improvements in charting borders for 60 countries and territories.

Cambodian government also accused Google Maps for “radically misleading” in charting its border with Thailand.11

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