Use Contadora nations, Reagan told. 'Reduce present military methods; redouble negotiating,' report urges
Mexico's President Miguel de la Madrid ended his visit here Thursday in obvious disagreement with President Reagan's approach to Central America. At the same time, a group that includes a number of former high-ranking American and Latin American cabinet ministers issued a report here calling for more emphasis on peace negotiations in Central America. The report tended to be more supportive of the Mexican view on Central America than that of the Reagan administration.
Differences between the United States and Mexico emerged most clearly on Wednesday when President de la Madrid addressed a joint session of the US Congress. The Mexican leader issued what amounted to a warning to the Reagan administration that the US cannot impose its will on Central America by force.
While de la Madrid did not explicitly criticize the Reagan administration, he made it clear that Mexico disagrees with the administration's emphasis on the East-West aspect of the Central American conflict. President Reagan has stressed what he describes as a threat to the region from a ''totalitarian coalition'' of Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Soviet Union. The Mexican President has emphasized the economic, social, and political roots of the conflict. He also called in his speech to Congress for an acceptance of ''pluralism,'' stating that ''a uniform style of democratic life cannot be imposed on anyone.''
In addressing the question of differences with Mexico over Central America, meanwhile, President Reagan tended to follow the standard administration line. He stated that while the US and Mexico may disagree on the means of achieving their aims in Central America, they do agree on the goals.
One of the key differences between the two nations centers on the nature of the leftist-led regime in Nicaragua. The administration often gives the impression that it cannot tolerate the Sandinista regime as it is now constituted. The US has been aiding the ''contra'' rebels fighting against the Sandinistas. Mexico, on the other hand, has provided Nicaragua with generous aid since its takeover by the Sandinistas in 1979. Mexico also maintains friendly ties with Cuba.
What annoys some American officials is their impression that Mexico uses its ties with Cuba and with leftist forces in Central America not only to emphasize its independence from the United States, but also for domestic purposes. In the American view, the Mexicans use their Central American policy to try to appease the leftist political opposition within Mexico itself as well as the left wing of the ruling Mexican political party there.
In its new 55-page study, the Inter-American Dialogue group recommended, among other things, that the Reagan administration halt aid to the contra rebels in Nicaragua, encourage negotiations in El Salvador, and give greater support to the Contadora peace process led by Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama. The group also suggested the US communicate more effectively with Cuba about Central America to avoid ''miscalculation and danger of a wider war.''
The 50-member group of prominent citizens from Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, and the United States, has met since 1982 in three plenary sessions and in small working groups. From Latin America, the group includes two former presidents, four former foreign ministers, and six former finance ministers.
On the US side, members include former Secretaries of State Edmund S. Muskie and Cyrus R. Vance and former Defense Secretaries Robert S. Mcnamara and Elliot L. Richardson.
The group's co-chairmen are Galo Plaza Laso, former president of Equador and former secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), and Sol M. Linowitz, who was a co-negotiator of the Panama Canal treaties and US ambassador to the OAS. Mr. Linowitz has been an outspoken critic of Reagan's Central American policies.
The work of the Inter-American Dialogue group has been financed with the help of private foundations and corporations. Its new report was published by the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.
At a press conference on Thursday, Ambassador Linowitz said the group had ''no magic solution to offer'' on Central America. But he said the group believed that ''the overriding imperative is to reduce the military conflict in Central America and to redouble our cooperative efforts to forge a political solution to the struggles there.
''The Contadora process . . . offers the best means for exploring the way to peace,'' said Linowitz.
As a first step, the group recommends that an effort be made to reach a regional agreement not to establish new offensive or strategic facilities in Central America or the Caribbean, or to threaten the territorial integrity of any country. At the same time, it says the US should make clear to the Soviet Union that any attempt by the Soviets to introduce combat forces, bases, offensive weapons, or strategic facilities into the Caribbean Basin would be responded to by all the means needed to prevent or reverse it.
The group's report states that the US should, however, immediately end support for the contra rebels in Nicaragua.
''Although some of us think that past pressures may have influenced Nicaragua to be more conciliatory, we believe that further support for them is unjustifiable,'' the report says. ''It would be ineffective, counterproductive, and, in the view of most of us, plain wrong.
''The Contadora countries should obtain firm assurances from Cuba and Nicaragua that neither country will provide military or paramilitary support for the insurgents in El Salvador,'' the report continues.
''If such assurances are forthcoming and are not contradicted in practice, the United States should demonstrate its readiness to cooperate for peace by scaling down the level of its military construction in Honduras and by reducing the duration, size, and frequency of its maneuvers in the region.''