The Central American presidents met for a three-day summit in San Pedro Sula, the seventeenth such meeting since May 1986. Discussions at the December 13-15 meeting have dealt mainly with issues of regional security. Six of the region's seven leaders were able to attend; violent student protests in Nicaragua caused President Violeta Chamorro to send Vice President Julia Mena in her place.
As of December 15, participants had approved some parts of a regional Treaty of Democratic Security, particularly those involving joint efforts to combat common crime and "delinquency." The first accord to be approved, for instance, involved the return of confiscated stolen vehicles across national boundaries. Participants also signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to finance the interconnection of the region's electricity systems. Other accords likely to be reached involve collaboration in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, and arms trafficking.
The meeting has had its share of controversy, however. Costa Rica and Panama, the region's two armyless states, expressed objections to the proposed treaty's military components. A dispute over demilitarization was unresolved as of December 15. President Reina declared on Dec. 14 that force reductions or "the role of the armed forces in a democracy" still remained to be discussed. Agreement also remains distant on a proposal that the region's governments negotiate the limitation and eventual elimination of foreign military bases, installations, and training schools. Any agreement on balances of forces and capacities -- which has been proposed by Costa Rica -- looks highly unlikely. Presidents Reina of Honduras and Figueres of Costa Rica both recognized that each country has "particularities" which tend to inhibit speedy agreements on such issues.
On the meeting's first day (Dec. 13), Honduran security forces shot and wounded eight peasants who were demonstrating a block away from San Pedro's Arab-Honduran Social Center, where the presidents were discussing guarantees of civilian security. The peasants were protesting the October killing of three civilians by soldiers in an agrarian dispute in Guaymas. The police had previously announced that it would not allow protests during the summit. President Reina condemned the act, which he characterized as "very strange," and ordered an investigation.
The next summit will be held in Managua, Nicaragua, in the first half of next year. [See previous issue for more on this topic.]
This is a semimonthly publication providing information on issues related to security and militarism in Central America. The above information comes from a large number of sources freely available over the internet. Please address all comments or contributions to: Adam Isacson, c/o Center for International Policy, 1755 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 312, Washington, DC 20036. Or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.