Letter to the Presidents of Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela on the Central American Peace Proposal

April 4, 1985

Dear Mr. President:

In the efforts of the Contadora group to resolve the conflict in Central America, one key objective has been to achieve national reconciliation in those countries rent by internal conflict. In El Salvador, President Duarte has taken the initiative in launching a dialogue with the guerrilla forces seeking to overthrow that country's democratic government; in Guatemala, which has been the scene of decades of strife, hope for national reconciliation has been kindled by the interest of a broad spectrum of parties in participating in elections later this year.

Only in Nicaragua have we seen efforts to promote national reconciliation frustrated by the government's negative response. I believe we now have an important new opportunity to promote peace and reconciliation in Nicaragua.

As you are aware, the principal leaders of Nicaragua's democratic opposition groups signed a declaration on March 1, 1985, in San Jose, Costa Rica, in which they offered a ceasefire in return for agreement by the Nicaraguan Government to a dialogue mediated by the Bishops Conference of the Roman Catholic church. This offer represents a bold and important initiative which I believe the United States and the Contadora countries should work together to promote.

My government intends to take action designed to strengthen Nicaragua's democratic resistance forces while encouraging the Sandinista regime to agree to Church-mediated dialogue. I have asked Congress to make available $14 million for the Nicaraguan democratic resistance forces. On Thursday, April 4, I plan to announce to the American people that I will use these funds only for humanitarian assistance while the democratic opposition's March 1 call for dialogue remains in effect. I will ask the democratic opposition to extend their offer until June 1. If the Nicaraguan government accepts the offer of dialogue with the opposition, then my government's assistance will remain limited to humanitarian purposes for a sufficient period to allow a serious dialogue to achieve progress. If the Sandinistas do not respond positively to the March 1 offer or, if 60 days after the offer of dialogue is accepted no agreement has resulted, I will lift this restriction on U.S. assistance unless both parties ask me to keep it in effect.

Mr. President, I am informing you of my actions before I announce them to the American people because I know the importance you attach to obtaining a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Central America on the basis of verified implementation of all of the twenty-one Contadora objectives. I believe this proposal for peace and democracy in Nicaragua can contribute toward achieving the key objective of national reconciliation in that country.

Sincerely,

/s/Ronald Reagan

Note: Identical letters were sent to Presidents Belisario Betancur Cuartas of Colombia, Miguel De la Madrid Hurtado of Mexico, Jorge Enrique Illueca Sibauste of Panama, and Jaime Lusinchi of Venezuela. The original was not available for verification of the content of the letter, which was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on April 22.