The Miami Herald
December 7, 2001

Nicaragua lets Hondurans off the hook

 TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- (AP) -- Nicaragua has released 100 Honduran fishermen it had held for up to six months after they were allegedly caught fishing in
 Nicaraguan waters, the Honduran government announced Thursday.

 The men -- and 50 seized boats -- had been picked up in the Gulf of Fonseca, a stretch of the Caribbean where the two countries' territorial limits are in dispute, between June and November.

 Nicaragua had demanded the fishermen pay a fine of $300 per boat, but in a move that Honduran Foreign Ministry spokesman Luis Torres called ``surprising,'' released them without payment.

 ``Nicaragua has reduced lately the practice of detaining Honduran fishermen,'' Torres said. ``That is a positive development.''

 Honduran fishermen claim the Nicaraguan patrols detained them in Honduran waters, while the Nicaragua sticks by its claim they were illegally fishing there.

 The territorial dispute has embittered relations between the two countries for years, but came to a head in 1999 when Honduras recognized a Colombian claim on another stretch of water that conflicted with Nicaragua's.

 Nicaragua imposed tariffs on Honduran goods in retaliation, but both countries have agreed to submit the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

                                    © 2001