San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Boat Detention Reawakens Territorial Differences

Differences over where Costa Rica ends and Nicaragua begins were reawakened last week when a Costa Rican fishing boat was detained and fined by Nicaraguan authorities April 10.

The boat’s detention in Pacific waters raised tensions between the neighbors, which have no bilateral maritime territory agreement. The detention set off the first diplomatic quarrel between the two nations since President Daniel Ortega took office in January (NT, Jan. 12).

Nicaragua claims the Costa Rican boat, “El Privilegio,” invaded its waters, while Costa Rica claims it was clearly in Tico waters and that Nicaraguan authorities entered Costa Rican waters to detain the craft.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno called the incident a “serious violation of Costa Rican sovereignty” in an April 11 letter.

The small boat with six passengers aboard – four Costa Ricans and two U.S. citizens – was “clearly in violation of international navigation security norms,” Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos responded in an April 11 letter posted on the Ministry’s Web site.

The passengers were released the day of the arrest. Nicaraguan authorities allowed them to bring the boat back to Costa Rica after paying a $250 fine, but not until after Stagno demanded the boat be returned and that Nicaragua guarantee that “such acts won’t happen again on the part of the (Nicaraguan) government.”

In his letter, Santos said the two governments should continue their work on a bilateral maritime territory agreement, which would better define the two countries’ territorial limits.


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