From the print edition
By Diego Urdaneta | AFP
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Central America needs a new regional pact to overcome substantial social inequality and to defeat organized crime, according to participants in the Central American Peace Accords in the 1980s, who spoke Tuesday at a meeting of the Organization of American States.
“I think the legacy of the peace plan is a fertile but inconclusive one,” said Oscar Arias, winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize and former two-term president of Costa Rica (1986-1990, 2006-2010). “In Central America, we have peace, democracy and development, but what’s lacking is quality in all of those variables.”
“It will be impossible to consolidate the democracy, plurality and peace achieved 25 years ago if we don’t decide to move forward toward necessary transformations,” said former Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo.
Arias and Cerezo, two of five Central American presidents who signed the Esquipulas II Peace Accords in Guatemala in 1987, delivered keynote speeches during the OAS forum, which included other participants of the ’80s peace process, such as former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein.
“We shouldn’t be satisfied with what the region has accomplished,” Arias said.
Cerezo called for a new Esquipulas-type agreement to confront the “demons” of a social “debt” to the majority of Central Americans, as well as the violence and institutional weakness brought on by drug trafficking and organized crime. The new agreement should outline regional policy to confront the problems, the former president said.
Continuing to ignore social injustice, Cerezo added, would “only continue undermining our society” and contribute to the “cultivation of future confrontation.”
“The state is not functioning well, civil society is very fragmented and weak, and political society is defrauding citizens,” Stein said, adding that the new pact should include “minimum commitments” by countries of the region.
Central American presidents met last week in Nicaragua to commemorate the peace accords, which put an end to decades of bloody civil war in the region.
During last week’s summit, leaders debated the region’s priorities, including fighting organized crime, which has converted the isthmus into the world’s most dangerous region.
Michael Barnes, who headed a subcommittee on Latin America in the U.S. House of Representatives in the ’80, called on U.S. officials to impose restrictions on the sale of weapons that later are trafficked to Mexico and Central America, where they end up in the hands of members of organized crime.
OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza acknowledged that Central America’s problems can only be solved through solutions proposed by countries in the region.
“The same courage that our leaders demonstrated [in signing the peace accords in 1987] is inspiring for today’s leaders who confront new challenges and threats against stability in the region,” Insulza said.
Central America’s peace accords were “substantially important” for Latin America, as they were key elements that marked the process of democratization in the region,” he added.
Said Insulza: “We can have discussions, but there are no other alternatives to democracy.”