Central American Military Leaders Meet to Discuss Arms Cuts
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) _ Central American officials met here Tuesday to explore ways of cutting their armed forces to improve regional security.
The meeting results from an accord reached by Central American presidents during an April summit in Montelimar, Nicaragua. The presidents agreed to attempt to reduce the size of their countries’ armies.
″Armaments should be limited and there should be action for verification and control that can be an adequate response to the interests of all the countries,″ Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bern Niehaus said.
A Costa Rican foreign ministry official, requesting anonymity, said the officials hoped to revive a regional security commission with the participation of the Organization of American States.
Gen. Humberto Ortega, head of the Nicaraguan army, said before the meeting that it ″is very important for regional peace because all of us have promised to reduce our armies and create mechanisms of verification and arms control.″
He said his own country has made large cuts in its own army, considered the largest in Central America. The reductions followed the defeat of the leftist Sandinista government February’s elections and a peace agreement that has led to the disarming of U.S.-backed Contra rebels.
″In the last three months, our army has been reduced from 96,000 to 46,000 men ... and we hope to cut it more,″ Ortega said.
Guatemala’s deputy foreign minister, Mario Rosal, said he was optimistic the meeting would ″advance the subject of security for the countries and reduction of the armies, as well as arms control.″
Other countries represented at the meeting were El Salvador and Panama.