Google Maps Errors Leads To Nicaragua Invasion Into Costa Rica

Google Maps error is being blamed for Nicaraguan troops accidentally invading Costa Rica last week.

The troops have been accused of crossing the hotly disputed Nicaragua border into Costa Rica in Central America and setting up camp for the night after taking down a Costa Rican flag and raising the Nicaraguan flag. But their commander, Eden Pastora, told Costa Rica’s largest newspaper, La Nacion, that Google Maps was used to justify the incursion. Nicaraguan government officials have also blamed a “bug in Google” for the error.

The dispute has become so serious that the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, has flown to the two countries to help solve the conflict. He is expected to report on his progress on Tuesday.

“We are concerned about finding paths of communication to be able to seek a peaceful solution between Costa Rica and Nicaragua,” Insulza said in a statement.

On Saturday, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said she was prepared to take the dispute to the UN Security Council if the OAS cannot find a solution.

“Costa Rica is seeing its dignity smeared and there is a sense of great national urgency [to resolve this problem],” Chinchilla said after meeting Insulza.

In a blog post at the weekend, Google geo-policy analyst Charlie Hale confirmed the error, which misplaced the border between the two countries. The error lies in Google’s depiction of the border in part of the Caribbean coast, near the San Juan River, the centre of the dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua that arose over the latter’s dredging of a river separating the two countries.

“This morning, after a discussion with the data supplier for this particular border [the US Department of State], we determined that there was indeed an error in the compilation of the source data, by up to 2.7 kilometers,” Hale wrote.

“The US Department of State has provided a corrected version and we are now working to update our maps”.

While the border between the countries was displayed incorrectly by Google Maps, the version on Microsoft’s Bing maps was accurate. There has been much historical conflict – going back to the mid-19th century – over which country owns land near the San Juan River.

However, a treaty between Costa Rica and Nicaragua has been in place since 1858 and details the border line accepted by both sides. In 1888, US president Grover Cleveland was called in to arbitrate the dispute and he decided to uphold the 1858 treaty and its terms. A more detailed map of the boundary was drawn in 1897 at the request of Cleveland.

Hale said Google’s map of the area would be corrected to follow the demarcation laid out in 1897.

This year Google was accused of showing an erroneous version of the border between Cambodia and Thailand.



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