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A `Marshall Plan' Initiative in Central America

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PEACE and democracy are the proclaimed objectives of United States policy in Central America. But to achieve them requires a third objective as much as a tripod requires three legs. This third dimension is economic justice - land reform, major strides against poverty, and much more. A well-structured program of regional economic development is essential to this end. The inseparability of peace, democracy, and development has been recognized by US and international study commissions on Central America, and the recent accords of the five Central American presidents. However, there is still no coherent initiative to link these goals in a cohesive strategy.

A dramatic initiative in economic development should not await the arrival of peace and democracy. Peace and democracy are vital to successful economic development. But progress toward economic development, raising hopes for a decent standard of living, is no less vital to peace and democracy. It can be an effective catalyst in the political chemistry of efforts to secure lasting peace and democracy in Central America - ultimately in Nicaragua.

The impetus for democracy and human rights in Nicaragua should not come from US military efforts to oust the Sandinista regime or get it to change its ways. It should come from the standards and incentives of a Central American development strategy in which all the countries of the region are free to participate if they abide by the criteria conditioning aid from the US and other sources. If Nicaragua rejects these standards (or, nominally accepting them, does not honor its commitment) it would be excluded from the regional compact. The result would be continuing deterioration of its already tottering economy in contrast to the emerging achievements of those of its neighbors who do participate - a contrast these countries should make every effort to communicate to the Nicaraguan people.

Any danger to US and Latin American security from Soviet bloc military aid given to the Sandinista government should be countered through the gamut of US relations with the Soviet Union and other countries providing such assistance, and by a high state of US military preparedness.

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