Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Contadora Group

Organization of Latin American states created in 1983 to advance nonviolent solutions to the conflicts in Central America. The initiative was launched by the foreign ministers of Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela who met on the island of Contadora (Panama) in January 1983.

The first Contadora peace proposal was presented in September 1983. The 21 Points of Contadora was a document with objectives that each Central American nation and the United States could endorse. It included such objectives as the reduction of military forces in the region, the elimination of foreign military advisors, and the end of support to insurgent groups operating against governments in Central America. Nicaragua accepted the document and agreed to initiate bilateral negotiations with neighboring countries and the United States. However, Washington ultimately rejected the proposal.

By September 1984, after months of deliberations on the provisions of a peace proposal, the Contadora Group presented a revised draft approved by the five Central American nations. Its content was based on the same security provisions as the previous 21 Points document, together with issues of regional democratization and national reconciliation. However, Nicaragua's acceptance of the draft in its totality and without modifications raised suspicions among its neighbors and the United States. A counterdraft was submitted by El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica (the Tegucigalpa Group) the following month, omitting some of the security provisions of the September proposal.

During U.S. President Ronald Reagan's second term, the diplomatic efforts of the Contadora Group continued as its support increased in both Latin America and the United States. Conversely, American support for the Nicaraguan Contras and a more active military presence in Central America intensified. In 1985, the newly democratic governments of Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay created the Contadora Support Group. In September, the eight Latin American countries produced a new proposal that took into account some of the Tegucigalpa Group provisions and set a deadline for acceptance of forty-five days.

Nicaragua considered the new draft unacceptable because it did not mandate the end of U.S. aid to the Contras. In fact, the main claim of the Sandinistas was that any Contadora proposal should also be signed by the United States. By 20 November, the day of the deadline, no peace agreement had been reached, and the Contadora Group suspended negotiations for five months.

The inauguration of a democratic regime in Guatemala revived the Contadora process. In April 1986, the Contadora Group, the Contadora Support Group, and the governments of Central America met to discuss a new proposal. However, Nicaragua's refusal to sign it without a U.S. commitment to stop aiding the Contras deadlocked the process once more.

After three years of arduous diplomatic negotiations, the Contadora Group unofficially came to an end in June 1986. That same month, the U.S. Congress approved $100 million in aid to the Contras, despite the pressure of the Contadora Group.

Carina Solmirano


Further Reading
Nieto, Clara. Masters of Wars: Latin America and U.S. Aggression from the Cuban Revolution through the Clinton Years. New York: Seven Stories, 2003.; Walker, Thomas W., ed. Revolution and Counterrevolution in Nicaragua. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991.
 

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