Given all this information, we can conclude that the narrative currently dominating the internet is wrong: Nicaragua did not mistakenly enter Costa Rican territory because it relied on Google Maps. Ortega’s justification for Nicaragua’s actions appeal to documents from the 19th century; Pastora’s mention of Google Maps is just a taunt.
In the original release of Windows 95, you could change your time zone by clicking on the map, and the time zone you selected would highlight. Similarly, you could change your Region Settings by clicking on the world map. This was one of those little touches that made Windows 95 that much more fun to use.
But we had to remove those features within months of release, even though we based both of the maps on the borders officially recognized by the United Nations.
In early 1995, a border war broke out between Peru and Ecuador and the Peruvian government complained to Microsoft that the border was incorrectly placed. Of course, if we complied and moved the border northward, we'd get an equally angry letter from the Ecuadorian government demanding that we move it back. So we removed the feature altogether.
The time zone map met a similar fate. The Indian government threatened to ban all Microsoft software from the country because we assigned a disputed region to Pakistan in the time zone map. (Any map that depicts an unfavorable border must bear a government stamp warning the end-user that the borders are incorrect. You can't stamp software.) We had to make a special version of Windows 95 for them.
Geopolitics is a very sensitive subject.
The unique aspects of the river are feeding fears in northern Costa Rica that what is happening at the river mouth is much more then a dredging operation. Some fear that Nicaragua is trying to change the course of the river to gain more territory, perhaps with a negative impact on the Río Colorado, which really is a southern mouth of the river system totally in Costa Rica. That area and the community of Barra de Colorado is known for its tarpon fishing.
The land where Nicaraguan troops are reported to be is an island on the south side of the river. At that point the river makes a sharp bend to the north. There is concern that the dredging is a cover for punching through the land there for direct access to the Caribbean. That would have a significant impact on the river flow and the flow of the nearby Río Colorado.
Tijerino did not explain why his security ministry helicopter did not land at that point to gain first-hand information on what was talking place. Clearly Costa Rican officials are trying to avoid a confrontation with Nicaraguan troops.
The country has been protesting Nicaragua's plan for more than a year. Officials insist that Nicaragua has the right to make improvements on the river only if they do not affect Costa Rica.
Eden Pastora [head of the dredging project] told a Managua television show in August that the central government wanted to remove barriers to navigation at the mouth of the river. Dredging is planned at other points on the river, too.
He said that the job involved dredging the first 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) from the Caribbean upriver. He told the show that the river channel had vanished and that the river water was being diverted into the Rio Colorado.
The Río San Juan was once considered a competitor of Panamá as a transcontinental canal. The river has been navigable from the Caribbean some 180 kilometers (112 miles) to Lake Nicaragua. A small canal from the northwest side of the lake could easily reach the Pacific. There is a fort on the river at the aptly named El Castillo that was designed to protect the country from invading ships.
Costa Rica has sent several other notes to Managua expressing concern. There was no explanation why officials did not have representatives at the river mouth to keep watch over the dredging operations.
The Costa Rican land along the river has few roads and the main method for travel is on the river. Some have said that the country has not acted strongly so that passage rights of Costa Ricans would not be restricted as revenge.
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