|Drug smuggling routes north. (Image: COHA/DEA|
On the one hand, the ruling dramatically expands Nicaraguan waters at Colombia's expense (if Colombia accedes to the ruling). Greater sovereignty by Nicaragua, an ideological opponent of Washington, could complicate the United States-backed drug war. How much, however, is questionable, since other nations, including Colombia, have the right to navigate those waters.
But the drug war will be weakened for a more important reason. Much of the cocaine and heroin smuggled to the U.S. from South America moves across the Caribbean, skipping from island to island to the mainland in go-fast boats or small planes. Suddenly, all of those already poor San Andres fishermen, with little education and limited job options, may see their incomes slashed by the court's decision. (Nicaraguan Pres. Daniel Ortega has said that San Andres fishermen will still be able to fish those waters - a promise which may be forgotten once Nicaraguan fishermen start complaining.)
What can the San Andres residents do when their fishing is restricted but their kids still need to eat? Of course, they can still navigate those waters, just not fish them. Inevitably, some will think about a highly profitable, if more risky, income alternative.
Interstingly, a week ago Pres. Santos said that the war on drugs has been "like a stationary bicycle" and outgoing Mexican Pres. Felipe Calderon told The Economist magazine that ending the drug trade was "impossible" and suggested alternative policies.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours