Colombian presidential hopefuls split over territorial dispute with Nicaragua

Bogota, Apr 21 (EFE).- The two candidates leading in the polls ahead of Colombia’s May 29 presidential election offered entirely different responses to Thursday’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in favor of Nicaragua in a dispute over the waters surrounding Colombian islands in the Caribbean.

The Hague-based ICJ found that Colombia has violated Nicaragua’s sovereignty by granting fishing rights to Colombian nationals in waters that the court granted to Managua a decade ago.

That 2012 ICJ decision confirmed Bogota’s claim to the islands of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, and to seven islets that are part of the same archipelago located 775 kilometers (480 miles) from mainland Colombia and 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the coast of Nicaragua.

But while upholding Colombian sovereignty over the land in the archipelago, the court recognized Nicaragua as rightful ruler of the surrounding waters beyond 12 mi (19 km) from the shore.

Colombia responded to the 2012 decision by withdrawing from the pact giving the ICJ authority over boundary disputes and amid unsuccessful talks with Managua on a settlement, Bogota continued issuing permits for fishing in Nicaraguan waters to members of the indigenous Raizal community on San Andres.

But what really angered Managua was the Colombian navy’s harassment of Nicaraguan fishing and scientific research vessels.

Leftist Gustavo Petro, who remains the front-runner to succeed right-wing incumbent Ivan Duque, blamed the adverse outcome at the ICJ on a “legal defense crafted in Bogota without thinking about the Raizals.”

“We need to make a bilateral accord with Nicaragua with one aim: to defend the fishing rights of the Raizal population of San Andres, and we will commit ourselves to that,” Sen. Petro said.

The candidate running second in the polls, rightist Federico “Fico” Gutierrez, said that Colombia “cannot cede a millimeter of territory.”

“Colombia is a democracy and Nicaragua is a dictatorship. We will not negotiate our borders with a dictatorship,” the former mayor of Medellin said.

The candidate of the Hope Center coalition, Sergio Fajardo, emphasized Colombia’s obligation to the Raizals and pledged that as president, he would include indigenous leaders in the team chosen to negotiate with Nicaragua. EFE


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