As an American, you sometimes hear about certain territorial disputes that exist in Latin America.
For example, there’s always the question of if Puerto Rico will ever become a state or independent.
Nowadays, it seems like the talk of “independence” isn’t so strong as you have more Puerto Ricans leaving the island to the US anyhow.
Outside of that, you always have the occasional leftist who brings up how the US “stole parts of Mexico” and other shenanigans that our country engaged in.
In the US, the only people who mention the US taking of Mexican territory are usually either:
- Leftists trying to sound like Oliver Stone or Michael Moore when talking US history
- Americans with Mexican heritage that feel so insecure about their identity and how they aren’t actually Mexican that they talk shit about how the US should give the territory back.
Anyone I missed?
And, funny enough, I haven’t ever heard a single Mexican talk about how the US should give that land back while living in Mexico over the last 4 and a half years.
So I can’t really say that’s a strong territorial dispute in Latin America.
Not sense the Zimmerman Telegram, huh?
Still, there are more serious historical or relevant territorial disputes worthy of mentioning.
Some of them very obvious to people interested in Latin America and others that are less obvious.
So let’s jump into it!
The Falkland Islands Belong to the Queen!
This is one of those other obvious examples about territorial disputes in Latin America.
That being the conflict between Argentina and the UK over the ownership of the Falkland Islands.
It’s such a dispute that the two even went to war over it in the 20th century!
Followed shortly by the UK kicking Argentina’s ass and keeping the islands.
For those curious, here’s a video discussing the conflict even more.
And here’s a video showing how the dispute continues to this day diplomatically.
The Argentines will never forget!
Isla Calero Between Nicaragua and Costa Rica
Now that we covered the most obvious example, let’s move onto some less obvious examples that not everyone has heard of.
As you can see here, there exists a diplomatic conflict between Nicaragua and Costa Rica over the ownership of an island called Isla Calero.
The diplomatic conflict is actually pretty recent extending from 2010 to 2015.
On the Nicaraguan side, they actually call the island “Isla Portillos.”
From what I understand, the conflict started because of a dredging work by Nicaragua at the section of the mouth of the delta of the San Juan river.
And is part of a long history of border issues between the two ranging from concerns of environmental damage to a military invasion.
Thankfully, the two sides never actually went to war over the conflict.
Not like Costa Rica has much of an army to go to war, huh?
Haha jeje haha jeje….
But the dispute was settled in the International Court of Justice on December 16, 2015 with Costa Rica winning the decision to keep the island.
Here’s a video on the topic.
The Conflict Between Guatemala & Belize
Similar to the Falkland Islands, this conflict is a little more known among those interested in Latin America.
As you can see here, there has been a long standing claim by Guatemala since 1821 that the country of Belize is actually a territory of Guatemala from my understanding.
However, the UK always committed after their independence to protect Belize from Guatemala.
Though I’m not an expert on the topic, I’ve heard casually that supposedly it’s because the UK gets to use some of the territory in Belize to train its troops in how to engage in combat in a more tropical area?
Don’t quote me on that.
Anyway, despite British support, there were serious considerations to invade the country in April 1982 by Guatemala given that the UK was occupied with a war with the Falkland Islands as said before.
However, the invasion never happened.
At any rate, Guatemala recognized Belize as independent in 1991.
In 1994, the UK disbanded most of its troops from the country but maintained a training presence in the country until 2011.
In 1999, Guatemala sent a letter to Belize reasserting its claim for half of the territory of Belize citing some inertance it always had from Spain.
Sounds like two siblings fighting over the inheritance of their rich dad that passed away….
Since then, there has always been some dispute between the two countries with an occasional moment like a Belizean patrol shooting a Guatemalan near the border in 2000 to both countries signing a document to avoid conflict with the OAS in 2005.
And since then?
Well, to keep it short, both countries agreed to take their dispute to the International Court of Justice and a decision seems to still be in the works from what I understand.
Here’s a video on the topic.
Isla Conejo Between El Salvador and Honduras
Speaking of border disputes in Central America, here’s another one!
This one involving a dispute between El Salvador and Honduras over Isla Conejo.
As you can read here, it seems like Honduras decided to take the Conejo Island from El Salvador in 1983 as El Salvador was going through a civil conflict.
With a group of soldiers that now guard the territory.
Even the International Court of Justice ruled on the decision in 1992 and 2003 advocating for Honduran access to the Pacific, the dispute between both countries is still a political issue.
And, as that article cited above says, the issue was a point of political importance in the Honduran elections in 2013 and Salvadorian elections in 2014
When it comes to the ICJ’s ruling, both countries claim different things about the decision.
With Honduras claiming that the decision is clear already and El Salvador claiming that the verdict on who owns the island was never actually part of the ruling.
On the Salvadorian side, there’s also the claim that the people on the island are still largely Salvadorian since the island has only been under Honduran military rule for less than a few generations and El Salvador points to historic documents showing its ownership dating back to 1821.
But why the dispute?
The island itself is an important point of naval and military importance to both countries.
Keep in mind that Honduras doesn’t have direct access to the Pacific without ownership of Conejo Island with its only other maritime communication being at the Golf of Fonseca as Honduras is between Nicaragua and El Salvador.
This has geopolitical implications for Honduras as their access to the Pacific could otherwise be cut off if both Nicaragua and El Salvador were to try to isolate Honduras together.
In the defense of Honduras, they have requested to have co-sovereignty over the Gulf as a way to handle the issue.
At any rate, it’s a border dispute that currently exists to this day.
Here's a video on the topic.
The Landlocked Bolivia
This is another one of those very obvious examples that I won’t go into too much detail since most know about it.
Basically, you had a war between Chile on one side and Peru and Bolivia on the other.
And Chile won the war.
Consequently, Chile took some land that made Bolivia into a landlocked country.
To this day, it’s still an issue.
When I was spending some months in Bolivia, I remember befriending a local named Mau who went to the same bar as me whenever I would wait for this girl I was seeing to finish her shift.
You can read more about her here.
And I remember how Mau was a pretty cool dude to talk with.
He was some math professor about 10 or more years older than me at the time.
We talked about a lot of stuff.
Funny enough, on one particular night when he was drunk enough, I remember him turning me into his personal therapist about those “damn Chileans that took the land!”
Anyway, for those more curious about how relevant the subject is, here’s a video on a internationally legal dispute between both Chile and Bolivia on the topic that was only some odd years ago.
Conflict over Esequibo
Next, we have the issue over Esequibo between Venezuela and Guyana.
A border dispute that has gone on for over 2 centuries as you can read here.
And what’s the issue about in basic terms?
Well, current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called to “reconquer” the territory.
There are plenty of minerals in the area that are of importance to both countries.
And tensions have gotten worse in years prior as the Venezuelan navy intercepted some Guyanese ships accusing them of illegal fishing.
Guyana claimed that their ships were operating in their “Exclusive Economic Zone” while Venezuela claimed that it was undisputed Venezuelan territory.
While Guyana has also taken its claim to the OAS – an institution that condemned the detention of the vessels by Venezuelan authorities.
Much of this territory, by the way, happens to consist of two-thirds of Guyana and include plenty of mineral and forest resources.
At any rate, for those who are more curious about the conflict, you should read the article cited here.
Or check out this video on the topic here.
The Most Recent War in Latin America
Of course, we have to bring up the most recent war in Latin America when talking about border disputes, no?
The war was known as the Cenapa War from January 26 to February 28, 1995 as you can read here.
However, the war has roots spanning back decades between both Peru and Ecuador over a border dispute relating to a piece of Peruvian territory along the eastern side of the Cordillera del Condor.
Both countries had a previous war in 1941 that ended in a treaty signed by both countries.
However, Ecuador later declared that treaty null and void because it’s a sour limp dick loser who really wanted the areas of Cenapa and Paquisha.
Anyway, the two went to war again in 1995 but a peace agreement was eventually signed known as the Brasilia Presidential Act on October 26, 1998.
In the end, Ecuadorian forces failed to achieve the objective in obtaining most of the territory that they wanted.
Because Ecuador obviously isn’t as cool or powerful as Peru.
Still, in all seriousness, it wasn’t that bloody of a war given its short length and also the fact that only around 500 people died.
Here’s a video on the topic for those interested.
Taking Back Guantanamo Bay in Cuba
Finally, we have this conflict here between the US and Cuba over ownership of Guantanamo Bay.
As you can read in that link cited above, Cuba wants Guantanamo Bay back from the US but the US won’t give it back.
For those who have lived under a cave for the last two decades, Guantanamo Bay is most famous for being the place where we tortured folks associated with the War on Terror.
And it’s a naval base for us also.
Anyway, as the article says, the US won’t “alter its lease” with Cuba that allows the US to have control over Guantanamo.
With the US owning the base since 1903 with the two countries signing two treaties confirming the legal status of it.
And, despite the War on Terror seemingly dwindling down as the US focuses its efforts on China, it still has some purpose for the US.
As that article says, “the base’s most recent addition is Southern Command Joint Task-Force Guanantamo.”
Which is the unit that runs the military prison.
As we can see, it still has some purpose to the US.
Here’s a video on the topic.
As an American, I guess I should throw my 2 cents in here.
Should we give the base back to Cuba?
Nah, not really.
You don’t give free shit away unless you get something for it.
So unless Cuba has something nice to offer, we’re keeping it!
Suck these red, white & blue nuts, Cuba.
Of course, there’s plenty of other conflicts that we could’ve mentioned.
For example, there’s the historic conflict between Brazil and Uruguay over Cisplatina as you can see in this video here.
I didn’t bring that up though since it doesn’t seem as relevant anymore though someone did bring up the idea of Brazil invading as you can see here.
Among some other sources online entertaining the idea!
Of course, as we all know, it's just "food for thought" that exists online and nothing serious.
And outside of that?
Well, I’m sure you have other conflicts or disputes worth mentioning.
But this article is long enough for now.
If you have any interesting examples, drop a comment below in the comment section.
And enjoy this relevant song on “Latin America” that I was listening to as I finished writing this.
Calle 13 --- Latinoamerica
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Thanks for reading.