Honduras political fight strands truckers at Nicaragua border

OCOTAL, Nicaragua — The latest twist in Honduras' month-long political crisis can be measured in the number of cargo trucks at the Nicaraguan border. On Monday, there were 107 — all at a standstill and stretched for nearly two miles.

Since Thursday, when ousted President Manuel Zelaya telegraphed his intentions to lead supporters across his nation's southern frontier, Honduras has shut down inbound traffic from Nicaragua, leaving hundreds of frustrated truckers stranded along the narrow road that leads to the Las Manos border crossing.

"I've spent the last five days here doing nothing but eating and sleeping,'' said Jonathan Perez, 29, who was hauling a shipment of tobacco to Honduras. "I think the best thing we could do is send Zelaya home.''

Zelaya has spent much of his time in Nicaragua since June 28 when the Honduran army snatched him from his bedroom and sent him into exile. He has found a fierce ally in Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Since Thursday, Zelaya and his staff have been operating out of the Frontera Hotel in Ocotal, about 14 miles from the Las Manos border.

While Ortega has railed against the new leaders of Honduras and threatened to sever ties, the reality is that Nicaragua needs its neighbor to the north.

Without easy access to an Atlantic port, about 60 percent of all Nicaraguan sea cargo goes through Honduras on its way to the United States and Asia, said Ricardo Guerrero, spokesman for the Association of Producers and Exporters of Nicaragua.

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