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Central American peace accord celebrates 25 years, but has it brought peace?

The Esquipulas peace agreement succeeded in ending political and ideological strife, but it failed to create peaceful societies. Today Central America is one of the world's most violent regions.

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Esquipulas, on Guatemala's eastern border with Honduras, is best known today for its towering white basilica, which draws thousands of religious pilgrims each year.

But the town goes down in history as the birthplace of a landmark peace accord in Central America, signed at a time when the Contras were battling the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and death tolls were mounting in El Salvador and Guatemala as the military fought to upend leftist guerrillas.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Esquipulas peace agreement by five Central American presidents, which paved the way, albeit not immediately, for a negotiated end to civil war across the isthmus.

It was considered a turning point for Latin America, a regional framework that marked a departure from Reagan-era anti-communist policies and its view of Central America as a stage of the cold war. The Esquipulas agreement garnered its head architect, former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the Nobel Peace Prize.

But if the accord succeeded in ending political and ideological strife, it failed to create peaceful societies. Mired in crisis, today Central America is one of the world's most violent regions and increasingly so. Gangs and more recently organized crime networks are threatening to undermine already weak institutions in many countries and their abilities to deliver justice, protect citizens, and foster a sense of social inclusion.

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