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Nicaragua, Costa Rica tense over map 'war'

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
San Jose, Costa Rica (UPI) Nov 8, 2010
Costa Rica is recovering from the shock of a Nicaraguan border incursion over the small matter of a Google map misunderstood by the invaders.

Or perhaps the matter wasn't small at all, as the online map showed Costa Rican territory as Nicaraguan but under Costa Rican control, triggering the conflict.

Nicaraguan troops crossed into Costa Rica, took down the nation's flag and hoisted Nicaraguan flag -- all in response to the Internet map.

It wasn't immediately clear why the invading Nicaraguan force used Google Maps as a guide -- the first time on record that source was used as such an authority -- to launch an attack that could have been averted by consulting with a military map.

With the two countries following divergent political paths -- Costa Rica is Central America's oldest democracy -- the conflict poses a challenge to the region's least militarized nation. In contrast, Nicaragua is heavily armed and still favors revolutionary fervor as a unifying force.

Nicaragua's aid-dependent impoverished infrastructure contrasts with Costa Rica's prosperous market economy and well-grounded democratic structures.

Most of the military activity following the Nicaraguan incursion remained centered in Nicaraguan territory as mediators from the Organization of American States met leaders on both sides in a bid to defuse tension.

Costa Rica analysts said it was unlikely the clash would prompt the San Jose administrator to review security and launch a rearmament program.

Nicaraguan Commander Eden Pastora, who ordered the incursion, blamed Google Maps for the error. Pastora's critics said if anyone was to be blamed it would have to be Pastora himself for launching a war on the basis of a Google map.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza has been talking with both sides to resolve the dispute. He said he would seek to find "paths of communication to be able to seek a peaceful solution between Costa Rica and Nicaragua."

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said she would consider taking the dispute to the U.N. Security Council if the OAS couldn't find a solution.

"Costa Rica is seeing its dignity smeared and there is a sense of great national urgency (to resolve the problem)," Chinchilla said after she met with Insulza.

While a tense standoff between Nicaragua and Costa Rica continues, so far the only apology has come from Google which erroneously depicted the border. A map of the same border region was depicted correctly by Bing, Microsoft's rival search engine.

Border disputes have festered over many years but an 1858 treaty brokered by U.S. President Glover Cleveland settled the issue and a detailed demarcation in 1897, overseen by Cleveland, was accepted by both sides.

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