By Olinda Salguero, Executive Director of Esquipulas Foundation for Peace, Democracy, Development, and Integration
In 2016 we commemorate 30 years of the Central American Peace Accords, Esquipulas I. And it has been 20 years since the peace agreement in Guatemala and Colombia, putting to rest the longest conflict in the region’s history. Latin America shall be the only region on the planet to have no conflicts.
Let’s take a short trip back in time. By the end of the decade in the 1980’s, Central America found itself within the grasp of the “Cold War,” the very fight over global hegemony between the United Stated and the Soviet Union. It very much translated into “low intensity” conflicts within the region; primarily affecting Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. This was threatening to destabilize the region, significantly delaying our development.
Inspired by the efforts of the Contadora Group that was led by Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama; the Esquipulas Accords I (1986) and II (1987) was introduced and led by the then Guatemalan President, Vinicio Cerezo. This established a significant milestone that would forever change the dynamic and face of the region
The Esquipulas placed a regional peace process making Central Americans the only protagonists; where they are directly responsible for its success or failure. Furthermore, it contributed to institutionalizing democracy and the recent political promotion of regional integration.
The Central American countries face the need to define a new course for development. After the revolution without revolutionary changes, as Edelberto Torres-Rivas points out, formal democracies were implemented. And 30 years after Esquipulas, Central Americans live with resignation and frustrated expectations over the profound democratization and structural changes of its injustices
Like most of the population within the region and primarily Guatemala, I have had the privilege of being part of the generation whom didn’t live the horror of war. Reframing peace and democracy is thus an intergenerational urgency that must address the inequality and structural problems that prevent us from living a full democracy. We must embrace the culture of peace and non-violence, have an equitable development that include the majority.
The redefinition however involves the salvation of politics, the development of new leaders, greater participation from the citizens, economies of scale, elite members of society committed to the common good…ultimately to build bridges where others have built walls.
Central America needs a new common course that can be used as the engine for development. That will articulate proposals and instruments allowing us to face the challenges that are presented in terms of: social inclusion, development of domestic markets and strategies of integration into the global economy, reducing risks associated with natural disasters, the effects of climate change or strengthening the rule of law; not to mention our response to a much broader revolution that takes place every day before our eyes, the technological advances and the knowledge that is changing the world
The time is now, because tomorrow is always late.