CP/doc.3540/02 rev. 1
23 January 2002
REPORT OF THE OAS INTERNATIONAL VERIFICATION
TO HONDURAS AND NICARAGUA
submitted by the General Secretariat)
CP/RES. 757 (1216/99), entitled “Support to the Governments of
Honduras and Nicaragua,” the Permanent Council took note of the
request for cooperation submitted by the two governments.
It further decided to evaluate the situation and to facilitate a
dialogue through a representative of the Secretary General, who was
mandated to formulate recommendations aimed at easing tensions and
preventing acts that could affect peace in the Hemisphere.
which was prepared by the General Secretariat and submitted to both
governments on December 19, 2001, recounts the action taken in
accordance with these recommendations and the results achieved, in
support of the governments of Honduras and Nicaragua.
January 3, 2002
Technical Report of
the OAS International Verification
Mission to Honduras and Nicaragua
On December 6, 1999, the Permanent Council of the
OAS met in special session to consider the situation that had arisen
between Honduras and Nicaragua over the ratification of a maritime
delimitation treaty between Colombia and Honduras.
The following day, the Council approved a resolution in support
of the Governments of Honduras and Nicaragua, CP/RES. 757 (1216/99),
which asked the Secretary General, with the concurrence of the
Governments of Honduras and Nicaragua, to appoint a special
representative whose mandate would be "exclusively to evaluate the
situation, facilitate dialogue, and formulate recommendations aimed at
easing tension and preventing acts that could affect peace in the
resolution also requested that the representative of the Secretary
General report to the Council on the implementation and the results of
the measures taken to fulfill the Council's mandate.
Between December 1999 and March 2000, the Special
Representative appointed by the Secretary General, Ambassador Luigi R.
Einaudi, brokered three cumulative agreements between the Governments of
Honduras and Nicaragua.
The first accord, concluded by the Foreign
Ministers of the parties in Miami on December 30, 1999, during a period
of high tension, created a framework to separate military forces and
develop confidence and security-building measures by freezing military
deployments to pre-crisis levels.
The second agreement, concluded February 7, 2000,
in San Salvador, El Salvador, defined tension-reducing measures in the
Caribbean Sea, including an agreement to not maintain any new military
or police posts, to refrain from carrying out actions that could provoke
incidents or serve as an obstacle to resolving any controversy by
peaceful means, and establish a combined Honduran-Nicaraguan patrol
The third agreement, concluded on March 7, 2000 at
the headquarters of the Organization, took the form of a Memorandum of
Understanding. This Memorandum completed the confidence and
security-building mechanisms agreed upon in Miami and San Salvador by
setting forth detailed provisions for combined patrols in the Caribbean,
for controls on military activity near the land border, and for
coordinated patrols within the two countries’ jurisdictional waters in
the Gulf of Fonseca.
In late February 2001, after almost a year of
relative calm, tensions resurfaced around claims and counter-claims of
violations of the confidence-building measures agreed-to the year
before. In order to address
the mounting tension, a meeting was held at OAS headquarters on March
16, 2001, between the Special Representative (since June 2000, the
Assistant Secretary General of the Organization) and the Vice-Ministers
of Foreign Affairs of Honduras and Nicaragua.
The Technical Verification
Agreement, developed during those talks, more clearly defined existing
confidence-building measures and established additional measures to
reduce tensions between the two countries.
Through the Agreement, the Parties also invited third countries
to provide technical experts, who, acting under the auspices of the
Organization, and with the support of the General Secretariat, would
verify Honduran and Nicaraguan compliance with the agreements reached.
In this connection, the Parties, through a joint letter addressed
to the Secretary General, requested that the General Secretariat verify
compliance of eight specific confidence-building measures.
On the basis of the Technical
Verification Agreement, the General Secretariat, working with the
parties, devised a concrete plan to verify two of the points contained
in the letter from the vice ministers.
These two points centered around verifying the location and
composition of the military and police posts along the land frontier,
and in the Caribbean Sea (the number and composition of the military and
police posts along the land border and in the Caribbean Sea had been
frozen at their September 1, 1999 levels by the San Salvador and
Washington Agreements of 1999, and 2000, respectively).
An Agreement for an
International In Situ
Verification Mission was signed by the parties and the General
Secretariat on June 7, 2001. The
Agreement provided the specific mandate and operational details for
conducting the verification mission, and detailed the location of the
border posts. Discussions
prior to the conclusion of the Agreement provided an opportunity for
each Party to raise comments or concerns regarding the list of border
positions being presented for verification by the other Party.
Purpose and Composition of
Pursuant to the Agreement
for the Verification Mission, the OAS Mission had two objectives The
first was to “verify the number and location of military and police
posts along the land border, and the number of persons assigned to work
in them,” and the second was to “verify that the military and police
posts in the Caribbean Sea were being kept at the same level as on
September 1, 1999.”/
fulfill these objectives, an OAS Verification Mission undertook two
visits to the land border and one visit to the Parties’ adjacent area
in the Caribbean Sea. During
the first visit, July 16-23, 2001, the OAS Mission verified those border
posts along the western-half of the land border.
On the second trip, August 15-21, 2001, the OAS Mission verified
the military and police posts in the Caribbean Sea.
During the third visit, October 14-18, 2001, the Mission verified
the border posts along the eastern-half of the land border.
The OAS Mission was composed
of political affairs officers, who are advisors to the Assistant
Secretary General, along with technical experts in military affairs
provided by the Governments of Argentina and Brazil.
The political affairs officers planned and led the missions.
Civilian officials from Honduras and Nicaragua participated in the
verification process as observers during the first and third visits.
At the request of the Parties, however, they did not participate
in the mission on the Caribbean Sea.
This participation represented an additional confidence-building
measure, since civilian officials were able to visit military and police
posts in the neighboring country. At the same time, they witnessed the transparency with which
the OAS verification team performed its work.
At the request of the Parties, the members of the Verification
Mission were not accompanied by the civilian officials from the two
governments when it undertook its verification mission in the Caribbean
A contains a list of the persons who participated in the verification
missions, on behalf of both the OAS and the two governments.
two governments provided security for the Mission at all times during
their visit to both sides of the land border area, with Honduras
supplying a joint military and police escort, and Nicaragua a military
escort supported by an OAS mine-clearing vehicle.
The Armed Forces of the two countries provided helicopters for
travel to remote, inaccessible areas.
is important to note that the Mission was made possible thanks to the
contributions of funds, materials, and human resources from the
governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Mexico, Spain
and the United States, made through the Fund for Peace of the
Organization of American States.
Visit: Western Land Border
Verification Mission conducted its first in
situ visit to both countries from July 16 to 23.
During the first few days, the Mission held meetings in the two
capitals with high officials from the Foreign, Defense, Interior, and
Security Ministries and the Army, to finalize details of the Mission.
Following those meetings, the parties and the OAS agreed not to visit
two Honduran posts (Guapinol and Froylán Turcios) since they were too
far from the border to be considered border posts.
From July 18 to 22, the
Mission visited 38 military and police posts on both sides of the
western part of the land border, from approximately the middle of the
Isthmus to the Fonseca Gulf, covering about 1,440 kilometers.
At each military or police
post along the border, the members of the Verification Mission asked the
official in charge questions to ascertain the number of persons assigned
there, the quantity and type of arms stored, and other nearby posts.
In most cases, the civilian population in the area were also
asked the same questions. The
six representatives of the two governments observed all the interviews
At the posts of the armed
forces, the Mission also inspected the military installations, to verify
that the equipment was consistent with or corresponded to the number of
staff assigned to each post. The
Mission observed that there were recent improvements in the living and
sanitary facilities at most of the Nicaraguan military posts. In the opinion of the Mission, the sole purpose of these
improvements was to enhance the living conditions of the soldiers at
these difficult, isolated places.
As for the police posts, the
Mission found some discrepancies in the number of officers assigned on
both sides of the border. Those differences were, however, minimal.
Moreover, the general trend was for fewer officers to be assigned
to the border than the numbers reported to the General Secretariat by
the governments. The
Mission was told that the reason for that was the reduced amount of
financial and human resources assigned to the police force in the two
In Honduras, the number of
police officers assigned to each post was not fully consistent with the
information provided to the General Secretariat by the Honduran
In two cases the discrepancy in the number of officers had to do
with different factors: the
police post at Las Selvas was closed and the officers had been
transferred to the Lodosa post, thereby increasing the number assigned
to the latter. The Mission
also discovered that the police post located in Azacualpa had been
closed. The Mission
concluded that the omission was the result of an administrative error by
the Honduran Government. On
the Nicaraguan border, they found that the police post at Guasaule had
four more officers than expected. They
also found that a police post in the village of Cinco Pinos had seven
officers who were not on the list of posts to be verified, even though
it was only two kilometers from the border. The Government of Nicaragua
did not include this post in the list of the posts to be inspected since
it considered it to be a post attending to the local residents of the
town of Cinco Pinos, rather than a post assigned border duties.
Appendix B contains information on the military and police posts in the western part of the land border, and includes the data provided by the Global Positioning System recorded by the verification team and the number of personnel at each post.
Visit: Caribbean Sea
The second visit of the OAS Verification Mission
took place August 15 to 21, 2001. The
Mission first traveled to Tegucigalpa on August 15 and 16, to coordinate
logistical and operational details with Honduran Authorities (Foreign,
Defense, and Security Ministries, as well as the Army and Navy).
On August 17 the Mission held a similar set of meetings with
Nicaraguan officials in Managua (Foreign, Defense, and Security Ministries, as well as the
During the early afternoon of August 18, the Mission arrived by plane to
Puerto Cabezas, a Nicaraguan port town on the Atlantic Coast.
The town has a port authority, run by the Nicaraguan Navy, since
the 1980s, according to information provided to the Mission.
This was a small outpost, similar in size to the type of posts
observed during the first visit along the land border.
The post consisted of 15 marines, who had only one fast patrol
boat at their disposal. The
vessel was approximately fifteen feet long, powered by twin outboard
motors, carries a crew of 4 marines, and is equipped to carry two 12.7
mm machine guns plus a heavier 20 mm cannon in the center of the boat.
The craft was unarmed during our visit, the guns being in storage
Departing from Puerto Cabezas in the afternoon
of August 18, on a 90 foot fishing vessel rented for the trip, the
Mission sailed north to an area off the Honduran Coast near the town of
Raya, in undisputed Honduran waters.
The Mission arrived at the area around 5:00 a.m. on August 19 and
did not find any naval presence or naval installations (docks, boat
houses, boats, or other military facilities).
The Mission would have sailed further up the Honduran coast to
Barra de Caratasca, but was not able to do so for lack of time in view
of the impending approach of Hurricane Chantale, which was forecast to
hit the area that afternoon. Accordingly, the police posts at Raya and at Puerto Lempira,
along with the Honduran Navy’s Rescue base at Barra de Caratasca were
visited during the third visit in October.
The Mission proceeded to the maritime area, object of the dispute between
Honduras and Nicaragua.
Both the Honduran and Nicaraguan Governments had informed the
Mission, in writing, of their desire for the OAS to consider verifying
some of the cays in this area.
The Mission discovered that some of the cays in the area had abandoned
shacks which were severely storm-damaged, but not inhabited.
Other cays were inhabited by fishermen and their families.
The Mission did not find any military or police presence in the
area or on the cays visited.
At first light on August 20, the Mission arrived at Cayos Miskitos, a
large archipelago in undisputed Nicaraguan waters where the Nicaraguan
Navy has a small outpost housing 13 marines equipped with one fast
patrol boat of the type described above, also unarmed at the time. The Lieutenant in charge explained that the current base had
been recently built in July, to replace a previous structure destroyed
in hurricane Caesar (1996). The
Lieutenant informed the Mission, as the Cabezas Port Authority had done,
that there had been Nicaraguan military presence in the area since 1982.
Local civilians informed the Mission that the military had first
established a permanent presence in Morrison Dennis Keys (about 10
nautical miles away, but still in the Cayo Miskitos Archipelago) around
October 2000. The military
then moved to a small dwelling in the village at Cayo Miskito sometime
in January 2001, moving subsequently to their current post in late July. According to the locals, prior to October 2000 the Nicaraguan
Marines came to the area in boats from their permanent base in Puerto
Cabezas. The Second Visit
concluded its verification at Cayos Miskitos, returning to Puerto
Cabezas on August 21.
Appendix C contains information on the military and police posts in the
5. Third Visit: Eastern Land Border Area
Mission’s third visit took place October 14-18, 2001. The Mission, along with the civilian representatives of the
two governments, visited military and police posts along the eastern
part of the land border, using helicopters provided by the armed forces
of the countries.
The Mission visited five
Nicaraguan border posts, four military and one police post, beginning
with the military post at Bolinki which is located approximately in the
center of the Isthmus on the banks of the Coco River.
The Coco constitutes the border for the entire eastern-half of
the land border between the two countries, and the other four posts, San
Andrés de Bocay, Waspán (2), and Leymus, are all located along its
banks. The Mission
subsequently visited three Honduran posts, two police posts (one in the
town of Puerto Lempira, the other in the coastal town of Raya), and one
search and rescue post belonging to the Honduran Navy, located on the
Caribbean coast at Barra de Caratasca.
Mission followed the same procedure as for the first visit, asking the
officer in charge a series of questions to ascertain how many persons
were assigned to each post, the quantity and type of arms stored there,
and whether there were any other posts nearby.
The Mission also interviewed local civilians living in the
vicinity of the border posts.
the Puerto Lempira police station, which is the headquarters for all
police stations located in the Honduran Mosquitia, the police
commissioner informed the Mission of the existence of a small police
border post located in the village of Suhí, manned by three police
officers. This post was not included in the documentation provided by
the Honduran Government to the General Secretariat. The transparent
manner in which the Commissioner provided the Mission with this and
other information, the probable size of the post, and its extremely
remote location, led the mission to conclude that a visit there was not
necessary and that the omission of Suhí from the list of posts to be
inspected was due an administrative error.
asked about the number and type of weapons that the officers stationed
in Puerto Lempira possessed (a question the Mission posed at each border
post in order to correlate the number of weapons on hand with the number
of personnel assigned to the post) the Commissioner said that aside from
the normal quantity of regulations arms (30 Galil semi-automatic
rifles), the post had 100 FAL 7.62mm semi-automatic rifles in storage.
This, the Commissioner explained further, was because all the old
rifles from all the police stations in his area of responsibility (which
included a number of posts in the interior of the country which were not
considered border posts), had been replaced by modern Galil
semi-automatic riles; the old rifles were waiting to be transported back
small naval base at Barra de Caratasca was visited as if it constituted
part of the second verification visit since it is a military
installation on the Caribbean Sea, and since the Mission was not able to
travel there during its August visit.
The base consisted of five marines, equipped with a specialized
unarmed search and rescue vessel of approximately 25 feet in length,
capable of high seas navigation.
minor variations in the number of personnel assigned to the military and
police posts on both sides of the border were found, in some cases more,
in other cases less than what the Mission expected to find. On the Nicaraguan side, the Mission was informed that a
small increase in police officers in Waspán, and military personnel in
Bolinki, was due to the fact that both the police and the army were
being tasked with additional security and logistical details related to
the November 4, 2001 Presidential elections.
D contains information on the military and police posts along the
eastern part of the land border.
At all of the posts visited
along the land borders, it was possible to ascertain that the personnel,
arms, communications equipment, and the number of staff assigned were in
keeping with the functions and responsibilities of vigilance and patrol
which are part of the work of all police or military border posts, meant
to accomplish the following objectives:
Take action against gangs of criminals who engage
primarily in cattle theft;
Prevent smuggling and the illegal trafficking of arms,
drugs, and undocumented workers; and
c. Exercise sovereignty, in the case of the military
It is important to note that the border posts are staffed by the minimum
number required to perform effectively the work assigned.
A reduced number of military and police personnel is assigned to
the border, i.e., a total of 179 in Honduras and 334 in Nicaragua.
In the Mission’s opinion, the staffing of military and police
posts on both sides of the border does not represent a threat to peace
or an indication of increased military presence in the border area.
The military installations in the Caribbean Sea, two on the Nicaraguan
side, and one on the Honduran side, are of such a small size as to limit
operations to the immediate vicinity of their base of operations.
The Mission did not notice any tensions related to the maritime
dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras in the areas it visited.
The Verification Mission holds the view that the minor technical problems
observed did not represent evidence of a deliberate desire to change
conditions along the border or to violate the spirit of the Memorandum
of Understanding of March 7, 2000.
The atmosphere of transparency prevailing in the two governments
supports this view. The few
discrepancies encountered are probably attributed to decisions made at
local level rather than plans arising from the capitals, or else are the
result of administrative errors. In
the opinion of the Verification Mission, these discrepancies could be
described as minor and inconsequential.
Members of the Verification
Mission and Civilian Observers
The following persons
participated in the verification activities:
For the OAS General
For the OAS
For the OAS General
First Visit, Southwestern
1- Honduran military and police border posts
2- Nicaraguan military and police border posts
Second visit, Caribbean Sea
1- Honduran military and
police posts in the Caribbean Sea
Posts verified during the third visit, but which came
under the mandate for the second visit: “Military and police posts in
the Caribbean Sea to be kept at the same level as on September 1, 1999
(Agreement for the First On-Site International Verification Mission,
July 7, 2001).
The government did not provide information on these posts.
Rescue unit only.
2- Nicaraguan military and police posts in the Caribbean Sea
No information on these posts was provided by the government.
Third visit, northeastern land border
1- Honduran military and police border posts
The OAS Verification Mission did not visit the Suhí
** The government did not provide information on these posts.
2- Nicaraguan military and police border posts
* The captain of the Waspán police station reported that there were five additional police officers, for a total of 18, instead of the usual staff of 13, because of the November 4, 2001 elections. The Foreign Ministry had indicated that the usual staff consists of 9 police officers.
© 2001 Organization of American States