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Nicaraguan Navy Seizes Honduran Fishing Boats, Relations Worsen

July 24, 1990

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Nicaraguan naval units seized more than 40 Honduran fishing boats the past two months ″without justifiable motive″ and this is eroding relations, Foreign Minister Mario Carias Zapata said Monday.

Carias told a news conference, ″Nicaragua continues capturing national fishing craft in Honduran territorial waters ... and as an illegal act this should not continue to occur.″

He said all boats were seized in the Gulf of Fonseca, in the Pacific Ocean, which Honduras shares with Nicaragua and El Salvador. The latest incident came Saturday, when six Honduran fishermen were arrested and taken to Nicaragua, he added.

″As a result of this situation, we view as very problematical the relations that now exist between Nicaragua and Honduras. Relations with Nicaragua continue to be difficult,″ Carias said.

No immediate reaction came from the Nicaraguan government.

Managua’s relations with Honduras have been tense since 1979, when the leftist Sandinista movement overthrew rightist dictator Anastasio Somoza and took power.

Tens of thousands of Somoza supporters fled to Honduras, where many were mobilized by the United States into a rebel Contra movement. Washington also provided military aid to Honduras and made Honduras the keystone in what officials called a U.S. effort to stem the expansion of Sandinista influence in the rest of Central America.

The Contras disbanded after Violeta Barrios de Chamorro defeated the Sandinistas in elections and assumed the presidency on April 25, but Sandinistas still control Nicaragua’s military and police.

Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador dispute the demarcation of territorial waters in the gulf. The International Court of Justice is to rule in the case next year.

Carias said Nicaraguans and Hondurans ″should avoid conflictive actions″ meanwhile, and ″act with moderation in order not to aggravate the situation.″

Jorge Varela said the Nicaraguans released most of the 80 arrested fishermen, but not their boats.

″Each boat is worth about $10,000. ... The Nicaraguan naval force is demanding payment of $600 to return each fishing boat .. . and this is robbery,″ he said in a telephone interview.

Varela is director of the Committee for the Defense of the Gulf of Fonseca, a private organization made up of gulf area residents.

He admitted ″some of the fishermen were arrested by the Sandinistas in Nicaraguan waters since there are no established demarcation signals in the Gulf of Fonseca.″

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