Secretary of State James A. Baker III appealed to the Soviet Union today to limit its export of arms and ideology to Latin America.
“We are looking for signs of new thinking,” Baker said. “The Soviet Union now has an opportunity to demonstrate it in Central America.”
Baker made his appeal in a speech to a conference on the hemisphere hosted by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford.
Baker said the Bush Administration is committed to working with leaders of the hemispherical democracies to promote political solutions to armed conflicts.
He cited as an example last week’s accord with Congress providing aid for Nicaraguan Contra rebels and support for regional peace efforts.
However, Baker said, “the United States will never support a paper agreement that sells out the Nicaraguan people’s right to be free.” Nor, he said, “should any other democracy in this hemisphere.”
Directing his remarks to the Soviet Union and others who support the Marxist government in Nicaragua, Baker said: “We must send a clear message to others outside this hemisphere: This is not a dumping ground for their arms or their failed ideology.”
Baker made no direct reference to the military aid the United States gave to the Contras in their attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government in Managua before Congress ordered a cutoff.
He said the United States supports dialogue between the two sides and also between the U.S.-backed government in El Salvador and Marxist guerrillas in that country “so the guns of war can stand silent throughout Central America.”
His appeal to the Soviets for “new thinking” appeared timed to the visit Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev will make next week to Cuba, the Soviets’ closest ally in the hemisphere.
Baker, a former Treasury secretary, also said there was no “magic solution” to the economic problems in Latin America.
He said hard-pressed countries must reform their “bloated state-dominated economies,” keep up with debt obligations “and satisfy the needs of their citizens.”
He acknowledged, though, that this was “a nearly impossible juggling act” and gave assurances that the United States was prepared “to hear your calls for help.”
Baker’s call for cooperation between the United States and the other nations of the region drew immediate praise from House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.).
Referring to the United States’ new approach to Latin America, Wright said, “Within our own internal government relations we have replaced an old bitter spirit of confrontation with a new spirit of cooperation.”