Demystifying Contadora

Courtesy Reuters

Contadora is the code word used to mean the pursuit of peace in Central America through negotiations. Its main alternatives are widely believed to be a U.S. invasion, a regional war or both. Like motherhood and apple pie, Contadora is liked and supported by everyone.

Why, then, has a negotiated settlement within the Contadora framework proved so elusive? Critics of U.S. Central American policy argue that a diplomatic solution requires support from Washington and that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, Washington opposes Contadora because a Contadora treaty would prohibit unilateral action by the United States in protection of its interests. The facts are more complex than this reasoning conveys. The U.S. government remains divided, with some saying that an imperfect treaty is better than no treaty and others arguing that no treaty is better. For their part, the countries of the Contadora group—Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and

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