|San Andres Island: Disputed territory.|
It's a long-running dispute, with roots going back to Spanish colonial records of the early 1800s. The court's decision, which could be many months away, will affect fishing rights in the area and possibly underwater petroleum resources. But the biggest thing riding on control of a speck of territory almost nobody's visited is undoubtedly national pride.
|Lines of dispute.|
Colombia bases its legal case mainly on two documents: an 1803 decree by the Spanish crown making the islands - and also Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast - part of La Nueva Granada, Colombia's colonial antecessor. That decree was rescinded just three years later, so it doesn't mean much. But it's something.
|San Andres and Providencia islands. |
A long, long, way from home.
But Colombia has occupied and exercised sovereignty over the archipelago for many decades.
Additionally, in 1822 the islands' residents voluntarily adhered to Colombia, and in 1903 they rejected a U.S. invitation to become part of the U.S., both of which seem like strong signs of allegiance to Bogotá.
Nicaragua, on the other hand, rests its claims mostly on geography: the islands are lots closer to the Nicaraguan coast. But, applying a geography test to the whole world would result in wholesale and impossible reshuffling of territories.
In today's world, it's just not going to happen.
Colombian officials have said that if the Hague court gives some of those keys and reefs to Nicaragua, Bogotá will accept the ruling.
That might be the best outcome. Colombia keeps the archipelago, which it would in any case, and Nicaragua recovers a bit of national pride, and fishing rights.
This article lays out the case for Nicaragua.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours