Letter to President Ricardo de la Espriella of Panama on the Situation in Central America

July 26, 1983

Thank you for the letter which you and the presidents of Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela have sent to me concerning the meeting held in Cancun on July 17, to review the current situation in Central America.

I would like to congratulate you on the efforts which the Contadora Four are making to promote dialog among the countries of Central America. My government has consistently expressed strong support for the Contadora process. The Cancun Declaration, by articulating the crucial issues which must be treated to reach an effective and enduring resolution of the Central American conflict, is an important contribution to advancing that process.

I continue to believe that a solution to the crisis in Central America must encompass four basic principles:

First, it is essential that democratic institutions be established and strengthened as a means to resolve political differences within the Central American states. Only by ensuring free and open participation in the democratic process can the peoples of Central America achieve reconciliation within their societies.

Second, there must be respect for the principle of non-intervention, including a ban on support for subversive elements that seek to destabilize other countries.

Third, the conflict in Central America must be removed from the context of an East-West confrontation, through such measures as the verifiable withdrawal of all foreign military and security advisers and a certifiable freeze on the acquisition of offensive armaments.

And finally, the countries of Central America must work among themselves and with their neighbors to achieve and sustain a level of economic growth that will guarantee the basic needs of their people.

I am pleased that the Cancun Declaration recognizes the importance of these fundamental principles. These issues are inextricably inter-related, and must be addressed on a comprehensive, regional basis which treats simultaneously the concerns of all the states affected by the Central American conflict. An attempt to resolve these issues sequentially, or on a piecemeal basis, will not achieve the goal we all share of a lasting peace for all of Central America.

Equally important is the need to ensure that all undertakings assumed by the Central American states be fully reciprocal and subject to comprehensive, fully adequate verification. Clearly, no initiative can bring true peace to Central America if one state is permitted to take unjust advantage of its neighbors through failure to abide by peace conditions which bind the others. The Charter of the Organization of American States makes clear that it should be the purpose of the OAS to either prevent unjust acts committed by one state against another, or to provide for common action on the part of the members in the event of difficulties. I believe the OAS, as this Hemisphere's regional forum, is the appropriate mechanism to ensure that those who make commitments, comply with them.

The problems of Central America are complex, and their solution demands untiring efforts. The activities which you and your colleagues in the Contadora group have undertaken are proof of your sincere dedication to the goal of a genuine and lasting peace throughout the region. My own efforts in this regard have been to dispatch my Special Emissary to the region and establish a bipartisan commission to examine the problems of Central America and to propose solutions. You have my prayers and those of my countrymen as you continue your work.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

Note: The White House announced that similar letters were addressed to Presidents Belisario Betancur Cuartas of Colombia, Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado of Mexico, and Luis Herrera Campins of Venezuela.

As printed above, this item follows the text of the letter released by the Office of the Press Secretary.