Central American Ministers Urge Salvadoran Rebels to Halt Attacks
Oct. 31, 1990
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Five Central American foreign ministers appealed Tuesday to leftist guerrillas to suspend their attacks and renew peace talks with El Salvador's rightist government.
In a statement issued at the close of a two-day meeting here, the ministers expressed hope that a cease-fire can be agreed upon in the next round of El Salvador peace talks, scheduled to start Nov. 4 in Mexico.
Previous U.N.-sponsored negotiations between President Alfredo Cristiani's government and rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front have ended in deadlock.
The statement expressed hope that ''as the dialogue proceeds a cease-fire will be called in El Salvador, preventing the resurgence of violence and fighting which has been victimizing the civilian population.''
In recent weeks, the guerrillas have launched a number of attacks aimed at military targets that have caused civilian casualties. More than 73,000 people have been killed in El Salvador since the civil war began in 1979, according to human rights groups.
The guerrillas have refused to lay down their arms until the Cristiani government agrees to a series of political reforms, including cuts in the armed forces and prosecution of officers for human rights violations.
The Cristiani government insists that a cease-fire be agreed upon first.
Earlier this month, Congress approved legislation halving the $85 million in military aid the Salvadoran government receives annually from the United States. The cut starts in fiscal year 1991.
But according to the bills, aimed at pressing for progress in the negotiations, U.S. aid will be restored if the guerrillas launch any major attacks and eliminated if the government refuses to negotiate further.
''Central America should spare no efforts to seek peace in El Salvador,'' the statement said. It was signed by Manuel Pacas Castro of El Salvador, Mario Carias Zapata of Honduras, Enrique Dreyfus of Nicaragua, Bernd Niehaus of Costa Rica, and Ariel Rivera of Guatemala.
The foreign ministers also tackled the issue of demilitarizing the Central American region.
A special security commission of defense chiefs will meet here Nov. 14-15 to exchange ideas and plans on reducing Central American armed forces, the statement said.
Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948, and has relied on a police force for security ever since.
The other four countries have military forces far beyond their security needs, and civilian politicians are pressing to reduce their size and influence in politics.
Regional accords helped defuse the U.S.-supported Contra war in Nicaragua. Efforts also are being made to negotiate an end to the leftist rebel insurrection in Guatemala.
The five presidents are scheduled to meet Dec. 15-16 in Costa Rica for further talks.