Colombia Will Challenge Maritime Border With Nicaragua

PHOTO: For decades Colombia administered all the area to the east of the 82nd meridian and to the south of parallel 15th. A decision by the International Court of Justice now grants to Nicaragua all of the areas in light blue. [map by Caracol Noticias]

Manuel Rueda/Fusion

The Colombian government has announced it will not abide by the International Court of Justice’s ruling over a maritime border dispute with Nicaragua.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday that the court’s decision is “not applicable” unless a new treaty is negotiated between the two nations, and that Colombia will work to stop Nicaragua’s “expansionist spirits.”

“Colombians are still outraged by the ruling of The Hague’s International Court of Justice, which pretends to give Nicaragua a significant portion of [our] historic and economic rights in the Caribbean,” Santos said.

“We will subscribe a letter of protest along with other neighboring nations [Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Panama] that I will personally deliver to the United Nations’ Secretary General,” Santos added.

The president’s words were met with general enthusiasm in Colombia, where politicians from both sides of the aisle praised what they interpreted as a bold and necessary stance to defend the country’s sovereignty.

“That’s the president Santos many Colombians were asking for,” Senator Roy Barreras said shortly after Santos’ speech. “A president that commits to firm and important decisions.”

In Nicaragua, the Colombian government’s announcement was received with wariness and skepticism.

Norman Miranda, an expert in international law, told El Nuevo Diario, a Nicaraguan newspaper, that Santos was overreaching with his speech, and that he was trying to involve other countries even though the ICJ’s decision did not affect any other nations.

“The court maintained the rights of Jamaica, Panama, and Costa Rica,” Miranda said. “They are not threatened, as president [Santos] wants to make everyone believe they are.”

The Colombian government is treading a thin line in order not to completely dismiss the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction, a move that might set a dangerous precedent. The legal strategy to do that, which was put together in the past few months by local and international law firms, consists in highlighting a newly found contradiction between the Pact of Bogota, a document that guarantees the international court’s jurisdiction in the country, and the Colombian Constitution.

“At no time are we disregarding the jurisdiction of the court at The Hague,” Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín told Caracol Radio on Tuesday. “We’re not disregarding the ruling either. We’re saying that our constitution does not permit its applicability.” Santos said that it is going to sue the Pact of Bogota at the country’s Constitutional Court, and that in the meantime the government will try to secure a new treaty with Nicaragua that satisfies both countries.

“We want to talk with Nicaragua about a treaty,” Holguín said. “We [want to know] what Daniel Ortega thinks about this.”

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said on Tuesday that he wants Colombia to abide by the International Court’s ruling and that the government’s stance is nothing less than offensive.

“The court’s decisions are obligatory,” Ortega said. “They are not subject to discussion. It’s disrespectful to the court. It is as if we decided not to abide by the ruling because we didn’t receive 100 percent of what we asked, which in this case was the San Andrés archipelago.” The maritime dispute between the two nations has prompted a small naval arms race in the past few months.

There have been talks of war, but both countries’ armies have said they don’t want a confrontation.

“Nicaragua wants peace,” Ortega said. “We have no expansionist aims…we only want what the court at The Hague granted us in its ruling.”

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