No word on Caribbean conflict during gulf talks

News Analysis.

(posted Dec. 5, 10:00 a.m.)- The presidents of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras met in Managua yesterday ostensibly to sign another agreement dealing with the Gulf of Fonseca, which borders the three countries on the Pacific.

The agreement comes on the heels of rumors of tensions in the gulf, as the Honduran Navy bolsters its fleet of go-fast boats to patrol the coastal waters.

The joint declaration signed yesterday reaffirms the three countries’ commitment to peace and calls for a new tripartite commission to study the advances made in complying with a 1992 ruling by the International Court of Justice regarding the maritime claims and management of the gulf.

Presidents Ortega, Funes and Lobo (file photo/ presidencia de El Salvador)

The Sandinista government did not mention whether the mini-summit was also used as an opportunity for Nicaragua to lobby its neighbors for support on the recent Caribbean conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia, which continues to defy the Nov. 19 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The Central America Parliament (PARLACEN) has already come out in support of Nicaragua and international law. But with the exception of Honduras, the other presidents of Central America have been more timid in backing Nicaragua’s victory last month in The Hague.

President Ortega’s comments last night were ostensibly in reference to the ’92 ICJ ruling on the Gulf of Fonseca, but he seemed also to be sending a message to Colombia as well.

The Nicaraguan president stressed the importance of respecting the ICJ’s ruling and said, “We have been clear that there is no room for any bellicose action or a military option.”

Second gulf summit of 2012

This is the second time this year that one of the three presidents has requested an urgent meeting to discuss ways to cooperatively promote the integral develop the Gulf of Fonseca and establish a “zone of peace.” Those conversations first started in the 1990s and were revived in 2007 and now in 2012. But after 20 years of talks—urgent or otherwise—there hasn’t been much noticeable integral development in the area.

The previous gulf talks were convoked hastily by Salvadoran President Maurcio Funes last March, during the brief political scandal caused by Guatemalan President Otto Perez’s regional lobby to get Central America to change its drug-war policy. Those talks were held in San Salvador three days after U.S. Under Secretary of State Maria Otero—an official charged with coordinating U.S. foreign policy on counter-narcotics efforts across the globe—traveled there to dissuade any further talk of decriminalization.

Since Guatemala’s Perez and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla has already come out in favor of considering an alternative to the drug war, they weren’t invited to the talks. The Gulf of Fonseca, therefore, became the perfect excuse to exclude them.

Following that meeting, Presidents Funes and Ortega—both of whom had initially appeared willing to discuss Guatemala’s proposal for alternative drug policy—reiterated their stalwart defense of the U.S.-led drug war in Central America.

“We reject the decriminalization of drugs as an alternative solution to the problem of drug trafficking,” reads a joint declaration signed by the three presidents during the March 30 Gulf of Fonseca meeting.

Whether last night’s presidential powwow on the Gulf of Fonseca was another pretext to discuss more pressing matters in the region is unclear, but no joint statement was issued on the ICJ ruling between Colombia and Nicaragua. Managua’s effort to get solid Central American support for the ICJ ruling will apparently require additional lobby.

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