Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Spy, You Spy: So What?

Nicaragua's arrest of an alleged Colombian spy has again ruffled relations between the two countries, which have an old dispute over the San Andres archipelago and its surrounding waters.

While these latest accusations could be false, it should be no surprise that Colombia does whatever it can - aboveboard and via subterfuge - to collect economic and military information about Nicaragua - and it's a sure bet that Nicaragua does the same about Colombia.

Even war planning is natural between to such adversaries. But it's a pretty certain bet that no sane mind in either government would want an armed conflict. For Colombia's part, any attack on Nicaragua would gain it little, cost money and lives and bring down on Bogotá the world's condemnation, in addition to all the moral issues. Nicaragua would have all the same reasons to avoid war, as well as the fact that it would get beaten soundly by Colombia's much larger and more tested military.

None of which, of course, means that an unpopular leader might provoke a confrontation in order to rally nationalist sentiment.

An international court in The Hague is now evaluating Colombia and Nicaragua's conflicting claims to the San Andres archipelago and surrounding waters. Colombian government officials have promised to accept the court's ruling. Nicaragua's have not - because they know the court won't give them the islands, over which Bogotá has long exercised sovereignety.

Grindingly poor and underdeveloped, Nicaragua does its impoverished people no favors by keeping this old and futile dispute alive. But it serves the politicians in Managua well, by distracting Nicaraguans from their pressing troubles.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Jorge Luis Borges once said when asked about the conflict between Argentina and Great Britain for the control of the Falkland Islands, or Las Islas Malvinas, that this was a fight between two bald men for a comb. I don't think that My country needs this islands, Colombia as it is, is big enough and, Nicaragua has really big problems with the land that they all ready have, so just chill out.

Mauricio Forero.

Miguel said...

It's a matter of nationalism and pride for both Colombia and Nicaragua, just as the Falklands are for Britain and Argentina. Economically, they are pretty marginal for both nations.

I tend to believe that with these border disputes, the least-worst solution is to leave bad enough alone. Chile, for example, wrongly stole Bolivia's piece of Pacific coastline. But that was more than a century ago, and Chile is a much more powerful nation than Bolivia. Despite the injustice of it all, Bolivia ought to drop its crying over past injustices and get on with things. It has much bigger and more solvable problems, as do Argentina and Nicaragua. Mike