Ginger Thompson, New York Times
Friday, December 30, 2005
It has not always been easy, said Coast Guard Capt. Stephen Leslie, to bring together nations with histories of border disputes. The Nicaraguans were leery of entering Honduran waters, Leslie said, and Guatemala initially refused to allow entry to Coast Guard boats from Belize.
After months of U.S. pressure, Leslie said, not to mention promises of money for parts and equipment, the countries agreed and held the first joint naval exercises in February and the second in December.
Human rights groups, like the Washington Office on Latin America, have criticized the plan to give Central American militaries -- which were responsible for egregious human rights abuses during the region's civil conflicts -- increased law enforcement responsibilities. But leaders of the region's navies dismissed those concerns and said joint military exercises had already begun to pay off.