Status Quo Side: Honduras
Non-Status Quo Side: Nicaragua
Region: Western Hemisphere
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Territory
The border between Honduras and Nicaragua in the area known as the Mosquito Coast had been in dispute since a 1906 arbitral award was challenged by Nicaragua in 1912. Subsequent attempts at resolution failed. After Honduras created a new state, Gracias a Dios, in the border region, Nicaragua in 1957 claimed that some Nicaraguan territory had been included.
50 Nicaraguan national guardsmen occupied Mocoron in the area claimed by both sides. On April 25 Honduras recalled its Ambassador and protested to the OAS.
Five Honduran planes reportedly bombed Mocoron just prior to a cease-fire declaration pending OAS investigation. On May 4 Nicaragua charged further bombing and strafing. On May 8 Honduras charged a Nicaraguan attack in the Cifuentes region 150 miles to the southwest, also in the disputed area.
An OAS plea for troop withdrawal was accepted. Both sides were persuaded to seek an ICJ judgment.
The ICJ upheld the original arbitral award. Subsequently, the boundary was demarcated through OAS-sponsored good offices.
Four decades later a new dispute broke out that threatened the post Cold War gains made in impoverished Central America. In 1986 the Caribbean Sea Maritime Limits Treaty granted Honduras (and Columbia) a swath of resource-rich Atlantic waters that was claimed by Nicaragua. The earlier conflict left a legacy of bitterness in Managua. In early 2000, as the two small armed forces maneuvered, rumors of war began to be heard. Nicaragua sought relief from the World Court while the OAS sent special envoy Luigi Einaudi to the region.
Copyright © 2000 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton