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El Salvador, Nicaragua accuse each other of entering waters

February 8, 2022 GMT

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Nicaragua and El Salvador are accusing each other of violating their maritime territory in the Gulf of Fonseca.

El Salvador’s Foreign Relations Ministry replied late Monday to Nicaragua’s initial allegation by saying that Nicaraguan naval vessels were actually the ones in the wrong in Friday’s events.

The gulf on the Pacific Ocean is shared by El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Their territories have been the subject of dispute for decades, including several decisions by the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands.

Honduras and Nicaragua signed a treaty last year recognizing their respective territories in the Gulf of Fonseca. Then Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández even went to Nicaragua’s capital to sign the treaty with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega just weeks before Ortega was re-elected to a fourth consecutive term in elections that have been widely criticized as unfair.

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El Salvador declined to join the treaty.

Nicaraguan Foreign Affairs Minister Denis Moncada wrote a letter to his Salvadoran counterpart alleging that Salvadoran “armed” military boats entered Nicaraguan waters Friday in what he called a provocation.

Salvadoran Foreign Affairs Minister Alexandra Hill replied that her country “energetically rejects the content of the diplomatic note” and “expresses its most firm protest for the repeated violation of its sovereignty.”

She accused Nicaragua of “trying to create a nonexistent perception of a provocative attitude on the part of (Salvadoran) naval forces.”

Nicaragua’s president suffers from a credibility crisis following the November election in which he was practically unopposed because he had jailed the leading contenders.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele is highly popular, but faces serious financial issues as the government’s debt grows. The International Monetary Fund recently called for his government to scale back its exposure with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

In November, Bukele proposed building “Bitcoin City” on the Gulf of Fonseca financed with Bitcoin bonds.