Honduras and Nicaragua In Dispute Over Maritime Boundaries

Angered by Nicaraguan plans to explore for oil in disputed waters, Honduras said that it may send troops to the border. Foreign Minister Guillermo Perez said his government "energetically protested" Nicaragua 's plans. "Honduras reserves the right to put in march any actions it considers pertinent to defend its maritime interests," he said. Perez accused Nicaragua of planning to hire foreign companies to search for oil in Honduran waters. "That is illegal," he said.

Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos announced last week that four U.S. companies were involved in bidding on an oil exploration contract. The exploration was to take place in the Pacific Ocean and on the mainland as well as in the Caribbean near the zone in dispute with Honduras. Honduran officials initially said the plan did not infringe on their maritime area. After several days of study, they apparently concluded that it did.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague is currently studying the dispute over a pie-shaped section of sea and expects a decision next year.

Nicaragua claims the maritime line should follow the general line of the border, angling out from the 15th parallel at the coast to the 17th parallel. Honduras argues it should follow the 15th parallel.

Perez complained that Nicaragua's decision "would take some 30,000 square kilometers of the Caribbean from Honduras." The border issue was inflamed in 1999 when Honduras signed a treaty with Colombia that recognized the South American country's claims in another dispute with Nicaragua. In reprisal, Nicaragua imposed a 35% tax on Honduran goods.