INS Influence Policy Debate on Central America
On March 21, the INS organized a roundtable discussion at the International Club in Washington D.C. concerning U.S. policy in Central America. Cosponsored with the Center for National Policy and Harper's magazine, the program was moderated by Abraham Lowenthal, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California and executive director of the Inter-American Dialogue.
The extraordinary gathering brought together in one room, around one table, the full range of perspectives in the current debate over U.S. policy in the hemisphere. Among others, participants included Fred Ikle, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and architect of U.S. military strategy in the region as well as Rep. Michael Barnes, the chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs who is a chief critic of Administration policy. Latin American participants included Daniel Oduber, the former President of Costa Rica; Oscar Camilion, the former Foreign Minister of Argentina; and Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist and diplomat.
The meeting also brought together a close ally of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, former Director of National Planning Father Xabier Gorostiaga, with the most prominent Nicaraguan critic of that government, Arturo Cruz, who served as Managua's Ambassador to the U.S. until December 1981. Significantly, all Latin Americans - including Cruz - opposed U.S. intervention in Central America as an isolating and destabilizing course of action.
Under INS auspices, Carlos Fuentes also met separately with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. Sam Nunn Jr. (D-Ga.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI), as well as with some twenty other Congressmen in a session of the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus. On behalf of the INS, Gov. Brown and Nathan Gardels joined a luncheon discussion at the American Enterprise Institute with Oscar Camilion and Argentine Ambassador Lucio Garcia Del Solar during their Washington visit.
What follows are excerpts from the roundtable discussion. Harper's magazine will publish the full text in the June, 1984 issue.
Fred lkle, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy:
Our guiding principle should be to foster the development and consolidation of pluralistic democracy. By and large, democracies are more peaceful toward their neighbors. Democracy is the best guarantee of human rights and democracy, not revolution, is the trend of the future.
Daniel Oduber, President of Costa Rica from 1974-1978:
There is no root in Central America for Marxist regimes, but unless we back the movements that are being built in order to destroy dictatorships, we make it ten times easier for Marxists to steal a revolution.
Unfortunately, the oppressive governments which were the status quo in this century have been backed by the U.S. This has meant that popular revolutions have had an anti-American character. What happened in Nicaragua, everyone knows. In spite of all the effort for 40 years of Latin American democratic leaders, all friends of the U.S., the Somoza regime remained and was known as a puppet regime of U.S. foreign policy. So, when the youth of Nicaragua, after living in the woods for 10 or 15 years, fighting the tyrant and being only protected or received or cherished by Castro's Cuba, declared themselves MarxistLeninists, most of them without knowing what they were talking about, I was not surprised at all.
In spite of this, in Nicaragua today the Sandinistas are not alone and there are important groups democratic leaders and Christian leaders - that can be utilized to bring negotiations or change there.
Unilateral intervention is unacceptable. I'm going to have to tell you frankly that for us to see the U.S. Congress, that we all respect and see as our example in democracy, discussing the appropriation of funds for a group of men to change the government of another country undermines completely what we Latin American democrats have worked so long to build.
Carlos Fuentes, Mexican novelist and diplomat:
The Mexican revolution was harrassed, menaced and even invaded at times by American administrations from Taft to Hoover, but it eventually managed to achieve accomodation with the United States.
What were the lessons learned by Mexico? First, that if a revolutionary regime is to survive it needs an army behind it. The most democratic government we have ever elected in our history, the government of Francisco Madero, was overthrown by a collusion of the army of the ancien-regime and the ambassador of President Taft in Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, in 1913. Other revolutions that did not have military strength in this hemisphere have been overthrown. Arbenz was overthrown in Guatemala in 1954 and Allende in Chile in 1973.
Yet, it is notable how once relations with the United States became normal, correct relations, the power of the army in Mexico started withering away. Today, Mexico has one of the weakest armies in the region, although my country was ruled under the aegis of the military at least between 1915 and 1935.
The revolutionary reforms and excesses of the Mexican revolution ultimately produced a country which has had a fruitful relationship with the United States. It took time. Democracy takes time. Nationalism takes time.
And the other main lesson of the Mexican revolution is this precisely. The assertion of nationhood, the creation of a nation, comes before the creation of a democracy. We found through our experience, through our dealing with the remnants of colonialism and in our relations with the U.S., we had to have a nation before we had a democracy. It proved to be difficult. Mexico is not a perfect democracy, but the U.S. has been able to live with it and to fashion a very good relationship today.
The major problem for the U.S. today is isolation because of its present policies, policies that have been criticized by traditional friends - Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Spain.
Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski, President of First Boston International
and Minister of Mining and Energy in Peru from 1980-1982:
The strong recovery in the United States is very mild in Europe and Japan and will not pull up commodity prices the way other recoveries have. This is largely because interest rates are high and people don't want to stock up on things like copper or cotton or even sugar. And Latin America's exports (including Central America) to the rest of the world are 80% such commodities. So what happens to commodity prices is vital. Today they are still very, very depressed.
The long and short of it is that as long as interest rates remain at these high levels, which create a debt service burden for the Latin American nations, things will get worse. Fifty percent of the export earnings of the whole region will be needed to service the interest alone on the foreign debt although imports to the hemisphere have dropped 45% in the last two years. When that is the case, and when 7% of the entire GNP is devoted to paying interest - not to speak of the principal - there is just no room left for consumption. As a result, income in Latin America has fallen 13% in the last few years. Most of that adjustment has taken place in the urban middle and lower income groups - clearly the most volatile groups over time.
Everyone is going to have to pay a price to get out of this situation. The countries involved are sharing the cost as their income declines. The industrialized country governments - through their congresses and taxpayers - are going to have to make an adjustment, although they are highly reluctant. The shareholders of the banks are going to have to take a bath for a while. Something has to happen because clearly the way we are going at the moment is completely unsustainable.
Rep. Michael Barnes, Chairman of the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee, House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
I think that a majority of the members of the House support a greater emphasis on the Contadora initiative, including substantive support, rather than merely rhetoric, for the efforts of those four countries and others that are seeking negotiated political solutions to the problems in Central America. One expression of that desire was the vote of the subcommittee that I chair to take a portion of the funds recommended by the President to implement the Kissinger Commission report and set it aside for the countries of Central America if they should enter into a peace arrangement. We recommend that $500 million be set aside for this purpose in a special contingency fund.
Pres. Oduber, Carlos Fuentes, Father Gorostiaga
Arturo Cruz was the Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S.
until December 1981 and was a member of the original revolutionary junta
established after the fall of Somoza:
Carlos Fuentes said, and rightly so, that revolutions need some military support otherwise they are squashed. But in my country, Carlos, the current army is called the Sandinista Popular Army. And it also happens that in my country as long as we have the situation of the state equal to the party and the party owning the army, I don't see any possible way out.
Finally, Sr. Fuentes said something which is very true. Mexico has been a victim of United States aggression. I agree, but you Mexicans have also shown tremendous pragmatism, which I fear lacks in my fellow compatriots. So with a view to finding a possible solution to this conflict through political persuasion, do you believe that it's reasonable that the young men who have struggled for years and years in the country have the obligation at some point to become statesmen?
Father Xabier Gorostiaga is the Director of the Institute
of Social and Economic Research in Managua and was Director of National
Planning for Nicaragua from 1979-1981:
There are obviously a lot of Marxist tendencies in Central America, but these are not what I would call dogmatic, European Marxist tendencies. What exists is much more a sort of Creole Marxism, a convergence of nationalism, Christianity and Marxism. It is not European Marxism and it is not even Cuban Marxism.
As I told my old friend and former boss, Arturo Cruz, a crucial issue is how to help the muchachos, the boys, there; how to help the Sandinistas institutionalize the revolution in order that this revolution can gain flexibility and pragmatism. These people didn't pass through Harvard or Cambridge but have just come from the mountains. As President Oduber said, they went up to the mountains when they were 15 years old and they don't know a lot of these intricacies of international diplomacy. How to help these people to become mature, to become statesmen, how to handle these problems in a much more practical way, that is the question.
Why is there not a sort of reciprocal attitude on the part of the U.S. government in order to show that there is good will to handle the issues with the Sandinista government instead of convincing them that there is a political decision to destroy the revolution? I don't think we can do too much under these extreme circumstances. Let Central America be in the middle. With these radical positions I consider that this Administration is supporting the Sovietization of Central America.
William LeoGrande is an Associate Professor of Political
Science at American University in Washington:
Susan Purcell is Director of the Latin American Program,
of the Council on Foreign Relations:
William Colby was Director of the Central Intelligence
Agency from 1973-1976:
Christopher Dickey was the Washington Post Bureau
Chief for Mexico and Central America from 1980-1983:
Robert Pastor was a Staff Member of the National Security
Council under President Carter:
If we know ourselves, we know the American people are not going to support a covert war on a scale and intensity like that we are currently waging in Nicaragua. If we know ourselves, we know that the "human rights hang up" is fundamental. We don't want to associate with criminal regimes. If we know the times we know it is not a question of the United States offering an alternative to the Nicaraguan revolution. The question is whether there is an alternative. Part of the struggle in Central America today is the struggle for autonomy from the U.S. To this extent, deeper U.S. involvement is only going to create more problems in the long term than it will solve in the short term. If we know the countries in Central America, we would adopt a very different strategy. The major threat in El Salvador is from the right, not from the left.
Mark Falcoff is a resident fellow at the American
Enterprise Institute and was a senior consultant to the Kissinger Commission:
Joanne Omang covers the Central America issue in the
capitol for the Washington Post:
At the same time, the Administration is talking about human rights. The fact that the debate is so strong in this country provides a countervailing image that the people in the U.S. will not allow the Administration to run roughshod over human rights any longer. So that's the image that's going out to the rest of Latin America from this very heated debate at this point. It is something that the Administration likes to see get out.
Oscar Camilion was Foreign Minister of Argentina during
1981 and that country's ambassador to Brazil from 1976-1981:
I think that this is a really crucial problem and I think that the problem in Mr. Kissinger's report is precisely that, because it finally opens the possibility of intervention.
It is also necessary to remember that the crucial problem is the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. I don't think we will ever have a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Central America without the U.S. reviewing its policy toward Cuba.
Edmund G. Brown, Jr. was Governor of
California, from 1975-1982: