"What Does the United States Want from Nicaragua?"
On June 23, 1979, the United States voted for a resolution by the Organization of American States (OAS) that called for "the immediate and definitive replacement of the Somoza regime" and - the holding of free elections as soon as possible".
When Somoza fled a month later, the United States immediately recognized Nicaragua's new government and sought friendly relations with it. With Congressional support, the Administration furnished large amounts of emergency food, reconstruction funds and development assistance. For the next 18 months, the United States was the largest donor of foreign aid to Nicaragua.
The result was not what we had hoped or wanted. Nicaragua's new government had wide popular support at first, but discontent grew as the Sandinistas revealed their Marxist tendencies and proceeded to renege on their commitment to support pluralism and to hold free elections. The implications became evident just as deliveries of U. S. aid were peaking: the Sandinistas brought in thousands of Cuban advisors, some of whom assisted a Soviet-backed Sandinista plan to advise, train and arm guerrillas in El Salvador. The Sandinistas began a massive military buildup, and refused to support an open and democratic system.
By 1984, when elections were finally held in Nicaragua, the situation had come full circle. Potential opponents had the same chance as they had during the 1974 election of Somoza as President, i.e., none, Press censorship was extensive. Organized gangs - the so-called Turbas Divinas ("divine mobs") - regularly broke up rallies of non-Sandinista parties and harassed individual candidates.
What the United States wants from Nicaragua is an end to these kinds of betrayals. And there is a means for ending them while protecting the legitimate interests of the Nicaraguan people. That means is through the Contadora process, initiated by Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama in January, 1.983. These four countries, known as the "Contadora Group," have engaged all five Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua) in a series of negotiations. Those negotiations are widely recognized (for example by the OAS and the UN) as the best hope for a regional peace settlement. In September, 1983, all nine countries party to those negotiations agreed formally to a "Document of Objectives."
How can U. S.-Nicaraguan relations get back on a more constructive track? The answer is simple - the Sandinistas can take seriously the commitments they made formally, along with the other eight participants, in that Document of Objectives. A fully reciprocal and verifiable treaty encompassing the Contadora objectives would take care of what the Sandinistas claim to be their concerns. More to the point, it would also meet U. S. concerns.
We want an end to Nicaraguan support for guerrilla groups. The Contadora objectives call for an end to support for subversion or other violence in neighboring countries.
We want Soviet and Cuban military and security advisers withdrawn and Nicaraguan territory prevented from being used for military purposes by the Soviet bloc. The Document of Objectives calls for banning foreign military bases and reducing and eventually eliminating foreign military advisers and troops.
We want Nicaragua's military strength reduced to levels that would restore military balance in the region. The Document of Objectives calls for the reduction of current inventories of arms and military personnel, Sandinista armed forces, together with a well-armed militia, number about 120,000 almost ten times the peak force of 13,000 reached in 1979 under Somoza. The Sandinistas continue to import advanced weapons from the Soviet Bloc.
We want the Sandinistas to keep their original 1979 promises of pluralism and democracy. The Document of Objectives calls for the establishment of democratic systems of government based on genuinely open elections.
Instead of attempting to build a totalitarian dictatorship tied to the Soviet Union, the Sandinistas could use their power to return to the ideals of the revolution that overthrew Somoza. They could, for example, borrow a page from President Duarte's book in El Salvador and open a genuine dialogue with the opposition - including their armed opposition and hold genuinely free, fair and competitive elections.
As the new year starts, the nine Contadora participants are consulting privately about language for a treaty based on the 21 points of the Document of Objectives. They have two drafts to work from. The Contadora Group delivered one draft for comment to the Central Americans on September 7. On September 21, the Sandinistas announced that they would sign this draft - but only provided that it was not modified.
The other Central Americans each submitted written comments, as the Contadora Group had requested. The Sandinistas refused to discuss changes; they particularly appeared to want to retain loopholes which would make verification and enforcement difficult, if not impossible. We announced publicly that the September draft was a positive step in the negotiations, but that it needed revision to be effective, The Contadora Group - its drafters - agreed.
Nicaragua's neighbors - Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras - then prepared a second draft, the October 20 Tegucigalpa draft, which we believe is a further improvement.
It simplifies implementation and makes the provisions for verification more precise.
In support of the Contadora process, we are holding bilateral talks with Nicaragua. These meetings began at the request of the President of Mexico, acting on behalf of the Contadora Group. We have met nine times since Secretary Schultz visited Managua on June 1, 1984.
In sum, the Sandinistas could participate in good faith in the Contadora process and by doing so help bring about peace in Central America, That is what the U. S. wants from Nicaragua.