Nicaragua-Costa Rica dispute
Relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica have become tense because an old border dispute has come up again. After Costa Rica presented a complaint to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Nicaragua imposed punitive entry fees on Costa Rican travelers, and raised the long-dormant territorial claim on the province of Guanacaste, in northwest Costa Rica. According to the Tico Times, Costa Rica 's ambassador to Nicaragua, Rodrigo Carreras, noted that the stalemate reflects the fact that the [San Juan] river is a much more important issue to Nicaragua than it is to Costa Rica. He is striving to improve mutual understanding between the neighboring countries, which have distinct cultural traditions. This dispute comes in the midst of intense public debate over free trade in the region, and may make Costa Rican ratification of CAFTA less likely.
It so happens that I purchased a detailed topographical map of Costa Rica when I was there in February. It clearly shows that the border with Nicaragua follows the south bank of the Rio San Juan, not down the middle of it. Unless some treaty gave explicit navigational rights to Costa Rica, I would say the case is closed.
Warm feelings from Venezuela
As the temperatures in the eastern United States plummet, and heating bills rise, today's Washington Post included a full-page ad trumpeting the low-cost energy program for poor people in the northeast, sponsored by Venezuela-owned CITGO. It concludes,
This fuel assistance program isn't about politics. It's about offering humanitarian aid to those who need it. What could be more American than that?
Indeed! Well, the marketing campaign is certainly American-style. I can't wait until Chavez pays a visit to the shivering, downtrodden proletarian residents of The Bronx. Hu-go! Hu-go! It's certainly a welcome change of pace from all the denunciations of "North American imperialism" coming from President Chavez lately. Given the polemics related to the withdrawal of opposition parties from the upcoming legislative elections, Venezuela clearly needs to improve its image abroad. For more, see Embassy of Venezuela in the United States.
Many people argue that Americans who buy gasoline from companies that get their crude oil from Saudi Arabia are indirectly funding terrorism. Perhaps those who buy gasoline from CITGO stations should consider whether they want to support the left-wing authoriarian regime of Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement." I don't think a boycott would do any good, and in fact, I think the United States should take a very low-key, tolerant attitude toward Chavez until he gets tired of throwing tantrums, or until there is clear evidence that he is connected to terrorist movements.
UPDATE: Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel accused the U.S. Embassy of instigating the withdrawal from the upcoming elections by the opposition parties. Oh well... See CNN.com.