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20 years

Tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over oil concessions could lead to conflict

A map issued by the Nicaraguan government showing areas on offering for oil exploration.  (Click to enlarge.)

A map issued by the Nicaraguan government showing areas on offer for oil exploration. (Click to enlarge.)


July 23rd, 2013 ( The government of Costa Rica expressed its strong condemnation yesterday over Nicaragua’s plans for oil exploration off both of its coasts, saying that a “significant number of areas” being offered by that country for oil exploration are Costa Rican territory.


An official letter of protest signed by Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo “demands that Nicaragua not make concessions for the exploration or exploitation of maritime areas, either in the Pacific Ocean or the Caribbean Sea, which violate maritime spaces belonging to Costa Rica,” according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.


The letter also requested the “immediate withdrawal” of promotional material issued by Nicaragua promoting areas of potential oil exploration and exploitation that Costa Rica claims as its own.


Costa Rican authorities said that 18 areas or “blocks” of maritime territory offered by Nicaragua in the Pacific and 55 in the Caribbean are “clearly located in Costa Rican territory.”


“Nicaragua has not wanted to alert potential bidders that their [maritime] boundaries are not defined in relation to Costa Rica, or that areas on offer are owned or claimed by Costa Rica,” the statement said.


Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry said that on August 26th, 2002 it objected to a similar action by Nicaragua, and invited the country to begin a process to negotiate the countries’ maritime boundaries.  The Foreign Ministry said those negotiations were interrupted by Nicaragua unilaterally in 2005.


“This is another manifestation of the expansionist policy of Nicaragua, of arrogance in its relations with Costa Rica. A further act of hostility, and we are responding today (yesterday) with a note of protest,” Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister, Enrique Castillo, said yesterday.


Nicaragua’s Ambassador to Costa Rica, Harold Rivas, acknowledged receipt of the letter and said he had sent the note to Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Samuel Santos.


Costa Rica’s government said it would also circulate a communiqué to governments and oil companies around the world letting its position be known.


Nicaragua pushing ahead


Costa Rica’s claims, however, don’t seem to be deterring Nicaragua’s plans, according to recent media reports.


Nicaragua’s Minister of Energy and Mines told Mexico’s El Economista that Nicaragua has authorized the Spanish firm Repsol Exploración to carry out explorations in the Caribbean Sea with an investment of $30 million beginning in August.  The Minister said drilling would begin next month, “more or less 190 kilometers from El Bluff” in Bluefields Bay (Bahia Bluefields).


The location, located off Nicaragua’s southern Caribbean coast, is near Isla Calero – territory that is disputed by both countries.


Potential conflict?


Analyst Freddy Pacheco believes the absence of negotiated – much less signed and ratified – maritime boundaries between the countries could lead to potential conflict.


“Until we know, with legal certainty, how far we exercise our maritime sovereignty on both sides, and while the two states continue clinging to widely divergent boundary options, we face an eminent danger of confrontation that could even threaten peace between the neighboring countries.  If a foreign entity obtains an oil concession from Nicaragua in an area unmarked but claimed by both countries, we could move towards a confrontation punctuated by petrodollars where new players have a new stage,” Pacheco said in a statement on Facebook.



Costa Rica Foreign Minister: “Nicaragua is not a good neighbor”

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  • prdatki

    For once, Nic. could be right,CostaRica had a contract for an American co. to explore the Carabien coast but old Donna Chiwawa did not want them. Costa Rica has the highest gasoline prices in Central America. If CR found oil , they could afford to rebuild there Refinery and would not need China, which is slowly buying CR.

  • P mattingly

    I would be ironic if a large oil deposit was discovered in a location that CR claimed was theirs but without any formal/official agreement could easily belong to NIC. With billions of dollars of oil flowing out of the floor of the ocean, I wonder how long it would take the CR officials to pull their head out of the sand and honor the concessions the gov has already granted but they reneged on.

  • Ken Morris

    To my mind, this is another consequence of Costa Rica’s refusal to talk with Nicaragua. I’ll bet that Nicaragua is overreaching, but when it can’t even get Costa Rica to the negotiating table to iron out these kinds of disputes much less to collaborate on joint ventures, what’s Nicaragua supposed to do, sit around and stay a poor country forever? I’m therefore glad to see Nicaragua forcing the issue aggressively. What I’m not understanding is how Tico pacifism can be coupled with a rejection of dialog. Of all people, pacifists need to talk with their adversaries in the hopes of reaching compromises.

  • MJ

    “Could lead to conflict”? Better call China for help cause Big Brother up the road will not be answering this time.

  • Prada7

    CR pulling whine and complain card again

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