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Nicaragua frees 14 Honduran fisherman captured in Pacific

January 11, 1997

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Nicaraguan officials today freed 14 Honduran fisherman who were arrested two days ago in a dispute over territorial waters.

But the Nicaraguan navy still held 11 boats the men were fishing from in the Fonseca Gulf, which is shared by Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The incident was the latest in ongoing disputes between Nicaragua and Honduras over fishing territory, off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

The 14 men were reunited with their families on the island of Amapala, just off Honduras’ Pacific coast.

``We are all here again in our fatherland, but without the boats we work with and by which we feed our families,″ said Amilcar Amaya, spokesman for the group.

He called on the government of Honduran President Carlos Roberto Reina to arrange the prompt return of the boats.

According to the Honduran government, Nicaraguan artillery boats shot at the fishermen. Foreign Minister Delmer Urbizo Panting said the men were in Honduran waters.

Urbizo called the attack ``a new and grave incident perpetrated by the Nicaraguan armed forces.″

In December 1996, Nicaragua detained 14 fishermen in two boats on the 15th parallel in the Caribbean, traditionally considered its territorial boundary. But since 1995, Nicaragua has been claiming territoriality further north, to the 17th parallel.

Nicaragua still has possession of four Honduran fishing boats seized in another incident in December 1995, and has demanded payment of a $200,000 fine for their return.