(November 2012) In what was called by one commentator a decision worthy of King Solomon, the World Court on Monday Nov. 19 ruled that while the Caribbean islands that had been under Colombian jurisdiction for years should remain with that country, Nicaragua has the right to extend its Caribbean territorial waters 200 miles out on the continental shelf from its shores.
Colombia retains waters around the islands remaining under its authority which are San Andres, Catalina, and Providencia (confirmed as belonging to Colombia in a 2007 ruling) along with the smaller cays of Serrano, Roncador, Quitasueño, Albuquerque, Este Sudeste, Serranilla, Bajonuevo and Baja Sueño (some which emerge from the sea only at low tide). Colombia had claimed that its territorial waters extended from its coasts to the 82nd meridian west longitude, leaving Nicaragua with only a 66 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. The Court, however, placed the border between the two countries’ territorial waters in some places as far east as the 80th meridian, in a clear loss for Colombia. This has resulted in the rejection by Colombian President Jose Manuel Santos of that portion of the ruling. President Daniel Ortega expressed his concern learning about that attitude..
The case began in 2001 when Nicaragua entered a claim for the islands of the San Andres Archipelago and for a new delimitation of the maritime borders between it and Colombia. In 1928, Colombia and Nicaragua (the latter occupied by forces of the United States) had signed the Barcenas-Meneses Esguerra Treaty which gave Colombia the waters and islands east of the 82nd meridian, but in 1980 that treaty was declared null and void by the Sandinista revolutionary government. In 2007, the World Court issued a partial ruling in the case saying that the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina belonged to Colombia but postponing a ruling on territorial waters and ownership of the cays. Colombia asked the Court to divide the waters between the two countries west from the coasts of the islands while Nicaragua asked that the division be west from the coast of Colombia. And, in this, Nicaragua prevailed. The disputed waters are a rich fisheries resource and have potential for petroleum production.
(Radio La Primerisima, Nov. 16, 18, 19 2012; La Prensa, Nov. 17, 18, 19; El Nuevo Diario, Nov. 18, 19; Informe Pastran, Nov. 19)