Nicaraguan military accidentally invades Costa Rica due to Google Maps glitch

Search Engine Land reports that a Google Maps cartography error led to an international conflict in Central America. A Nicaraguan military commander who set up a post on the Costa Rican side of the border blames Google Maps for incorrectly identifying a portion of the boundary. Bing, for what it's worth, displays it correctly.


  1. Bing also shows a heck of a lot more detail with the river that follows the border clearly marked as well as several lakes that don’t even appear on Google Maps.

  2. Um, shouldn’t the Nicaraguan military be supplying their officers with their own maps? Just, y’know, a thought…

    1. Cost / Benefit. In the olden low-tech days it took major investments to get gadgets to work, these days even the U.S. military uses a lot of commercial off the shelf components to do things because they work just fine, and are cheap.

      Kids with a laptop today have access to more intel and information than the deepest most secure facilities in the 1950s.

      I wonder what China thinks about maps not showing them owning Taiwan…

  3. Google’s satellite view is a bit clearer for the comparison with Bing – you can see those lakes and river details that don’t show up in the regular map. Quite a discrepancy…

  4. i´m costarrican, and we dont have military to defend our border, only a few cops, those nicas must leave our country, also they are making changes on the river to modify the borders, without studies about impact in the nature.

  5. It’s no error.

    They’re purposely invading to create conflict. Probably to distract the public generating hate and avoid them to look at their own problems looking for a reelection.

  6. Fortunately, Costa Rica doesn’t have a military of their own, so the worst they’re going to do is send their police to hand them a search warrant. The reason CR doesn’t have a military isn’t that they’re any more or less peace-loving than other people – it’s that one of their presidents a century or so ago realized that the primary purposes for a military in Latin America are to overthrow the civilian government and to steal land from the Indians, and he’d rather give up stealing more land from the Indians in return for having a stable civilian government.

    1. Sounds like a win-win to me. Maybe more countries should try it out for a change. Liechtenstein abolished its military in 1868 because it cost too much – quite the cost saver as well.

  7. Evil things Google has done in the last week:

    – Sending 700,000+ voters to the wrong voting locations

    – Deleting videos supporting prop 19 from YouTube.

    – Banning the phrase ‘medical marijuana’ from Google instant.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if at least a small chunk of the Republican takeover is directly attributable to Google secretly using their platform to secretly push their political agenda.

  8. Yeah, we quit using Google in Afghanistan for planning our raids. Bad cell phone service and we kept ending up in place where we weren’t wanted.

  9. Something most all cartographers do, is add a little false information to each map to make sure they can tell their maps from plagiarized copies.

    I remember the Thomas Brothers guides had one on each page. I got hit with this a few times while doing delivery runs for a printer many decades ago.

  10. Xeni, you’re grossly misinformed regarding this issue. I know you’re covering it for the funny tech angle, but this is no laughing matter for people in Costa Rica. There was no mistake. This is just the latest episode in a long series of border disputes between both countries. It’s a desperate attempt by the president of Nicaragua to keep people distracted from the real problems they have at home.

    @billstewart: You are correct that the initial drive behind disbanding the army was for a president to ensure the stability of his government, but the reason why we haven’t re-established it is because we ARE peace loving people who mind our own business and choose not to invade other countries under the pretense of “spreading democracy” (trying to maintain it at home is a tough enough job). It also had the added benefit of allowing CR to invest in education while our neighbors invested in guns, which turned out pretty well for us in the end.

    This issue will be dealt with in a civilized manner, using existing international dispute resolution channels. We don’t need a military so we can send the many to die in wars started by the few.

    1. What part of this three-sentence, non-editorial post comes across as “grossly misinformed”?

      1. The title. There was no accident and it had nothing to do with maps. The title “Nicaragua Raids Costa Rica, Blames Google Maps” in the original article is much more accurate, but less click-worthy I guess.

  11. I can’t imagine that another country didn’t whisper into their ear and maybe, MAYBE say something about how Bing and Google have different maps and if BIG IF they were looking for a hole to sneak through to use that discrepancy as a locator. Plausible deniability, you see.

  12. yo, nicaragua! imma let you finish, but germay’s invasion of poland was one of the best raids of all time! of all time!

  13. It’s amazing how some people don’t understand the real concern behind these actions…Let me help you with some teaching: 1. Costa Rica is a peaceful country that abolished the army since more than 60 years ago. 2. Nicaragua is a country governed by military, old school comunists who are engaged with Chavez and his idea of merging latin american countries under the “socialist-comunist ideals”. 3. Every once in a while, when there are presidential elections in Nicaragua, the comunist military goverment starts a struggle against another country (examples of past disputes are Honduras, Colombia now Costa Rica, etc.), so that the Nicaraguan people start to pay attention to something else rather than their poverty levels and lack of jobs in the country (because the comunists are stealing all the country’s wealth), this way, people start feeling the patriotism created by the government and thinking the real enemy is across the border, not inside their kitchen as it really is. 4. This time, the military goverment of Nicaragua went too far against Costa Rica, since they invaded our nation, crossed the border with military troops, took down our flag from our territory and planted theirs, started to open an artificial canal/ river leg by cutting a lot of trees across a Costa Rica protected national reserve (Barra del Colorado) to connect their San Juan river with a lagoon that belongs to Nicaragua and later on claim that the island as Nicaragua land since the new San Juan river path will separate that land from Costa Rica (it is not a real island right now, since it is Costa Rica’s continental land, but it will become an island if we allow this army to finish their job with deforestation). This is the reality of what is happening here, it is aggression from a military comunist country against a non-military peaceful country that even helped to stop the civil war back in the day in Nicaragua (heard about Oscar Arias and his Nobel Prize?)…Well I hope this helps some people to understand that this is not about Google maps being wrong or right, it is about the freedom of a country endangered by a new wave of comunist ideals that have no respect at all for other people’s and countries’ rights, and that are willing to use brutal force and guns to expand in our continent…I don’t see this solved by the OEA or by the International Court in La Haya, as even when both institutions give the reason to Costa Rica, the fact is Nicaragua will never accept that, and will claim that the U.S. and capitalism is behind that decision, and they will stand in arms as they know they have Castro’s and Chavez’s support (as well as the ALBA’s countries support)…See the big picture now?

  14. Although Anon #27 may be right in a “little picture” way: it has been common enough for a government to distract its home population from problems at home by engaging in a “foreign adventure”…but that’s a very far cry from this being the “international communist aggression” which this is claimed to be.

    And as far as I can tell, there is but one country in the world which does not accept the principle that no state may increase its territory by military conquest. And that state is not Nicaragua.

  15. And finally, that Nicaragua may wish to claim some disputed land by some subterfuge is a valid concern of Costa Rica’s.

    I just objected to the characterization of democratic Nicaragua as a “communist military dictatorship”, which Nicaragua has NEVER been.

    Except in the most purely – yet still false – rhetorical sense – and that rhetoric was unfailingly used by those adopting it to promote continued, or greater, violence and war in that region.

    But that war ended, decades ago. Once the US had de-funded the contras.

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