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Please make a tax-deductible donation to GlobalSecurity.org - Click Here The Contradora Group And The Central America Crisis CSC 1985 SUBJECT AREA General THE CONTADORA GROUP AND THE CENTRAL AMERICA CRISIS by LtCol Antonio Sandoval Colombia INTRODUCTION Last January, the members of the Contadora Group celebrated their 2nd year of existence. Contadora is an example of a process of pacification. The formation of it was the result of the highest ideals and proposals of the President of Colombia, Dr. Belisano Betoncourt, with the help of the Presidents of Mexico, Venezuela and Panama. They formed a group with the principal goals of finding a peace solution to the conflicts in Central America with special emphasis on El Salvador and Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras and the roles of the United States and Cuba. Contadora's main objective still has not been fully realized. In spite of all the studies and petitions and cooperation by the respective governments in question, there has been very little concrete results. There are many, many factors that contribute to this failure but without a doubt, the most influential factors comes from the failure of the two main protagonistsCuba and the United States. They have not given their total support to the Group, which would help them arrive at a viable solution that would free Central America from its constant state of alarm. The dream of peace should not only exist in the mind, but should materialize in fact within the protagonists on the other hand because the well placed intentions like the Contadora Group looks for a solution in the convulsed area. ANTECEDENTS The beginnings of the Contadora Group surged forth in January of 1983. The seeds were planted by the Colombian Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alfonso Garcia Robles from Mexico, Nobel Prize winner, Alba Myrdal and Sweden's Prime Minister, Olof Palme. They called for the Presidents of Colombia, Mexico, Venezeula and Panama to act as mediators in the Central American conflict.1 Contadora is an alliance that does not advocate a direct formal involvement by its members, but rather pursues a policy of self determination and non-intervention for the peaceful solution of conflicts within the Central America region. To do this, it receives very limited power by the governments in question to obtain a workable arrangement that will put them all on the road to a viable solution that is compatible with all of the nations of the area. 1"American Central Enre Contadora y Managua," El Universal de Caracas, Jan. 19, 1983. Glosas. p.4-B. It is characterized as being a unique and peculiar diplomatic species or coalition that acts as a transitory element which under specific circumstances works to influence events that it will directly affect. The national interest of each of the member nations works in an area considered by the United States as being part of its primary hegemony region where North American as well as Latin American interests are coming into play in a classic East-West conflict.2 The main obstacle facing Contadora radiates from its lack of a decisive power base which then obligates it to stay well within a finely defined line of non-partisanship, which impedes its ability to define its politics in favor of one part or another. However, each of the member nations continues to pursue its different geostrategical interests: Venezuela, its petroleum; Colombia, its difficult situation in the Carribean Sea (San Andres); Panama, its strategic location and Mexico, its close proximity to the United States. The first formal meeting between the leaders of Panama, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela was fully realized on the Isle of Contadora (Panama) at which time the four ministers 2"The Contadora Process," (letter, July 26, 1983). R. Reagan. Dep. State Bull. p. 83, Sep. 1983. reviewed the political and economic situation in Central America. This led to a specific detailed plan for the formation of the Contadora Group, putting into effect major strategic provisions which produced an interesting and positive combination of Presidential diplomacy. The visit of Belisario Betoncourt to Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Panama was instrumental in the elaboration of a Central American peace plan, and this signalled to the world that Contadora was primarily in the area to solve the fundamentals of the social and economic problems in Central America. It is Contadora's belief that the economic recovery throughout Latin America is hampered by high United States interest rates and protectionist measures. This, in turn, puts the region in a highly volatile situation because of its many internal as well as external points of conflict.3 In the declaration of Cozumel, the presidents of the nations which make up Contadora conceded that the problems of Central America would not be solved militarily and called for an immediate withdrawal of all foreign military advisors, the suspension of all military shipments to the 3"Declaration de Betoncourt en Cozumel," El Espectador de Bogota, Ab 10, 1983, p. 10-A. region and the stopping of all logistical support by all foreign governments.4 This declaration proved favorable to the Cuban-Soviet Bloc because of the subversive way in which they export them for other countries in the area; their support is often disguised by Nicaragua while American military help has been out in the open. Because of the recent tensions along the Honduras and Nicaragua border, the Group asked the advice of the O.E.A. and agreed to a petition in order to postpone the debate. The Contadora group agreed to send a group of 8 observers, 2 for every member nation to the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. THE CENTRAL AMERICA CRISIS The actual situation in Central America is conflictive, complicated and is not new. Its newest facet is the dangerous relations which now exist between neighbors in the Central America nations because of the volatile current 4"Betoncourt pide respecto a autodterminacion," El Tiempo, Db 10, 1983, p. 2. crisis which has its beginnings in the political, economic and social climiate and in the influx of foreign forces in the area.5 It's a reality that political interests and actions by foreign powers affect the current situation in Central America, but also it is true that these reasons are not sufficiently adequate to fully inflame the area. We must also take into consideration the deprived socio-economic conditions, because "at the bottom of all crises there exists many more profound motives that relate directly with the problems of injustice that have been predominate throughout the region."6 During its life as Independent Central America, it always had been an area of conflicts, from the time of independence from their Spanish overlords which came about because of frontal battles as did other nations of the same epoch. The intention of Morazon to unite a solid and unique nation came to nothing due to regional interests and the intervention of Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. 5"Why the Crisis Will Deepen," Bus Week, May 23, 1983, pp. 58 -59. 6Rodrigo Lloreda, Contadora (Bogota: Gente Neuva editorial, 1984), p. 1. These political interventions, instability, the precarious regimes and the alliances and frictions between neighboring nations have been an important fctor. With the exception of Costa Rica, the democracy in Central America has been weak and sporadic, with some short periods of peace and stability. In recent years, that political instability has been accompanied by the influence of external factors, sometimes by the United States and more recently the intervention of other nations such as the Soviet Union and Cuba, which have used this region as a breeding ground for the spread of their Communist Revolution.7 At the end of the Second World War, the dictators in power allowed democratic reforms which clearly showed the misery and backwardness of the ara. Politics, economics, and obsolete governments impeded advancement. In the socio-economic camp, the sitaution in Central America presents special characteristics. As a whole, the region's countries' per capita income went up 5% between the years of 1950-1980, and its exports increased from 250 to 3200 million dollars. After 1980, because of international 7"Peace Process in Central America," UN Mon Chron, Mar. 21, 1984, pp. 9-12. inflation, one begins to see a negative index that clearly affected the political climate and, as a result, can be used as a reason for the current crisis.8 Central America's growth in the recent years has not modified or helped its economic structures, it is calculated that 35-40% of the population live below the accepted poverty level. The desire of the population to rise above the poverty level took Honduras and Costa Rica through different paths of economic reform from those of El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. This was due to their different social norms and their superior equilibrium within the sectors of their political and economic structures which explains the reason why these last three nations are the center of the conflict, and why they are the key to the peaceful solution to the current conflict. It is clear that Central America as well as the Carribean Sea represents to the Soviet Union a clear strategic point in dealing with the United States that would permit it to extend Cuban influence through the region.9 8Germau Castro, El Problema Centroamericans. (Bogate: Brequera,1983), pp. 10-15. 9Rodrigo Lloreda, Contadora (Bogote: Gente Nueva, editorial, 1984), p. 5. The Soviet Union is conscious of the strategic freedom of the United States in this part of the world depends a great deal on a stable Carribean. As well as the political socio-economic situation crisis, we must add bilateral conflicts which constitute external problems between all involved, like the existent crisis between: Guatemala and Belice; Guatemala and Mexico; El Salvador and Honduras; Honduras and Nicaragua; Nicaragua and Costa Rica and the pretentions of Nicaragua toward Colombian soil.10 As a consequence of the political phenomenon and the international economic situation tht have been particularly cruel to fledging nations. Central America is going through a very difficult time characterized by the lack of incentives to private investment, exportation of money, the great external national debt and commercial deficit which surpassed 430 million in 1977 to 1400 million in 1982. This demonstrates that the political causes so many times repeated are not the major cause of the problem, but rather the socio-economic troubles which should be taken into consideration in order to fully gauge the extent of the problem. 10"La Existencia de 'Contadora' impidio conflictos en la region", El Universal de Caracas, Feb. 10, 1984, p. 5. THE PRINCIPAL OBJECTIVES OF THE CONTADORA GROUP The principal objectives of the Contadora Group in reference to the situation in Central America and the rapid deterioration of democracy, excalation of violence, increased tensions, internal conflicts and the imminent danger of conflagration within their boundaries are the same ones that are established by the international right, which are also set forth by the United Nations Charter, and which if fully realized, can greatly contribute to the solution of the conflict. The Group has established a general program for Central American nations that adheres to the strict rules and regulations that affect international relations and laws that are conducive to a firm control of the current arms race among area nations; the elimination of foreign influence; the creation of a demilitarized zone; the eradication of arms trafficing and the termination of all intervention by foreign powers. Another set of objectives is the establishment of a stronger socio-economic base, taking into consideration that the member nations tend to favor a democratic way of government and consequently, are interested in finding a democratic political structure that permits participation by all nations involved.11 11Rodrigo Lloreda "Contadora" (Bogote: El Gente Nueva, 1984), pp. 5-6. The Group realizes that Central American nations need to be directed toward democracy by the means of a well calculated process as not all of the nations share the same political structure and all should find a common group between the nations involved and the participation of the people in popular elections. In closing, the Group's main goal is the repulsion of arsenals and standing armies of the Central American nations who, in the last years, have received large amounts of military supplies disproportionate to their basic needs, spending large amounts of their deteriorating budgets on the training and equipment of the regular armies. Also, the Group wants the total elimination of all foreign advisors whose presence contributes to the conflict. In Nicaragua, there are Cuban advisors as well as other nationalities; in El Salvador and Honduras one finds North American advisors. The Central American nations have accepted the fact that the elimination of these advisors is important but that elimination of these advisors should be organized under agreements between the nations in question and super powers, who are the main suppliers of armaments and advisors.12 12"La Existencia de Contadora Impidio Conflictas en la Region," El Espectador de Bogote, Feb. 10, 1984, p. 10. POLITICAL POSITION Much has been said and written about Contadora's political position compared to the other nations' especially when compared to Cuba and the United States. Some say that it protects Nicaragua from a possible invasion by the U.S.; others say that it is a secret organization of the Department of State of the United States.13 Inspite of these positions, neither of these extremes holds true, but is best expressed through a Latin American point of view which is confirmed by the government's manifestations of the world. As a result, the Group coincides with some of the United States' points of view such as the establishment of democratic governments and the effort for peace and social and economic reform. But at the same time, the Group as a whole is not in agreement with the overall strategic U. S. point of view, as the United States insures its national security by backing insurrectionists in Nicaragua.14 This is the reason that the Kissinger Commission stated that the action of the Group: "Is not a substitute of American foreign policy in the area."15 Neither does the 13"La Guerra encubierta contra Contadora," E. Collani and R Cribi Bs. As. Ed. 1983, p. 20. 14"La via Militar no es Solucion para Centroamerica," El Espectador, Botote, April 19, 1984, p. 2. 15"El Informe Kissinger." Nueva Frontera, January 30, 1984, pp. 27-29. Group's policies coincide with the policies of Cuba or the Soviet Union. These nations are working on expansion and are looking for strategic military bases to create difficulties for the United States. They also seek to consolidate Latin American governments into their communistic power block. This logically is rejected by Contadora as this implies a new and perhaps a more profound form of dependence. In summation, Contadora aspires to a far reaching political system for the future of Latin America and to show to the world that: "We are capable and have the capacity in finding our own solutions to our own problems."16 without foreign intervention. Contadora celebrates international backing that is very important. At the beginning, it was surrounded by an air of incredulity and the super powers and international organizations thought that it would be another impotent body that would be as ineffective as all of the Latin American policies. This non-belief has been defeated through the strength of the member nations to overcome great obstacles such as the United Nations' motion to disband the Group by 16Rodrido Lloreda "Contadora" (Bogate, Ed. Gente Nueva, 1984), pp. 7-8. presenting to the International Security Council that the problem in Central America was not a local problem, but rather a global problem and, therefore, should be handled as such, thus negating the need for a group like the Contadora Group. In spite of this, the motion did not succeed and the Group was revitalized and its proposals of peace have received international backing.17 CONCLUSION After two years of existence, the Contadora Group results have been many and varied, some of which have been in the way of security, towards contributing to the reescalation of a possible conflagration within Central American boundaries. It is commited to the slowing down of the arms race and the withdrawing of some foreign advisors from its countries. In the political front, it has collaborated with Guatemala to increase popular elections; in El Salvador, it helped to introduce an electoral process; in Nicaragua, it helped in realizing the promised elections with hopes of normalization of the political process. 17"Quien rechazo a Contadora?" El Mundo, July 31, 1983, p. 8. On the economic front, various projects have been initiated. The Kissinger Commission, though not clear politically, shows great promise politically in that it wishes to pump large amounts of money into the region. The Latin American nations have united behind the Contadora Group and are initiating a program of cooperation such as: Mexico and Venezuela who sell their petroleum under very favorable conditions; Colombia initiated a plan of credits with low import export rates and scholarship funds. In the political front, it has great hopes in internal peace and reconciliation of the Central American nations.18 In closing, the development impulse of the social- economic life is structurally vital for peace, as is understood by the industrialized nations. It is hope that these ideas will establish themselves into concrete facts. In conclusion, Central America represents a great challenge. What happens today and in the future will influence the future of all of Latin American countries. We cannot ignore this fact. One should act today and do it right. This is the main objective of the Contadora Group for all of the brother nations of the continent. 18Rodrigo Lloreda "Contadora," Bogate, Edit. Gente Nueva, 1984), pp. 10-11. BIBLIOGRAPHY "America Central entre Contadora y Managua." Universal de Caracas (Jan. 19, 1983), Glosas, p. 4. "Betancourt pide respeto en Cozumel." El Espectador. Botota, Colombia (Db. 10, 1983), p. 10-A. Castro, Germon. "El Problema Centroamericano." Bogota: Bruguera, edit. 1983. Collani, E. and Cribi, R. "La Guerra encubierta contra Contadora," Bs. As., edit, 1983. "Declaracion de Betancourt en Cozumel." El Espectador, Bogota, Colombia (Db. 10, 1983), p. 10-A. "El Informe Kissinger." Nueva Frontera Mag (January 30, 1984), po. 27-29. "La existencia de Contadora impidio conflictos en la Region." El Universal, Caracas, Ven (Feb 10, 1984), p. 5. "La via militar no es solucion para Centroamerica." El Espectador, Bogota (Db. 19, 1984), p. 2. LLoreda, Rodrigo. "Contadora." Bogota: Gente Nueva Edit, 1984. "Peace process in Central America." UN Mon Chron (Mar 21, 1984), pp. 9-12. "Quien rechaza a Contadora." El Mundo, Cali (July 31, 1983), p. 8. Reagan, Ronald. "The Contadora Process." Letter. Dep State Bull (July 26, 1983), p. 83. "Why the Crisis will Deepen." Bus Week, (May 23, 1983), pp. 58-59.