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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 182 | Septiembre 1996
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Central America

Armed Forces As Peacemaker?

Some years ago they waged cruel wars and were the unquestionable center of power. Today they claim to be for dialogue, tolerance, human rights and social equity. This is a key document for Central American history.

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Some years ago, Central America's armed forces, located at the epicenter of unquestionable power, were major protagonists of wars triggered by arrogance, intolerance and deep seated social and political inequality, and marked by widespread and cruel violations of the most basic human rights. Today they say that they are putting their bets on dialogue, tolerance of difference, human rights and social equality. The following document is one for Central America's history books.

Responding to the invitation of Mr. Federico Mayor, General Director of UNESCO, and thanks to the hospitality of the People and Government of El Salvador, expressed through His Excellency, President Armando Calderón Sol, and Division General Jaime Guzmán Morales, Minister of Defense, we the Ministers of National Defense and Commanders in Chief of the Armed Forces and Armies of the countries of Central America met in San Salvador, El Salvador on June 26 and 27, 1996, to analyze the role of the Armed Forces and Armies of the Central American area, on behalf of the consolidation of democracy, the rule of law, development, Central American integration and the culture of peace in the current international and regional context.

As the fruit of our deliberations, we have decided to issue the following Declaration:

* The democratic process has made great and significant advances in the Central American area, fundamentally in the peace and reconciliation of our societies, tasks in which the contribution of our institutions has been decisive. The domestic armed struggles in Nicaragua and El Salvador have ended and the peace negotiation process is advancing in Guatemala, permitting us to state that firm and lasting peace is being guaranteed and that conditions are better for sustainable human development.

* We are convinced that firm and lasting peace is based on social justice, solidarity and equity, which is not feasible without economic and social development, which translates into the improvement of the quality of life of all social sectors. Thus, for Central America to be a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development, a zone is required in which inequalities are overcome and the human rights of all its inhabitants are respected.

Since democratic security is necessary to guarantee inhabitants the enjoyment of freedom, health, culture, economic well being and social justice, the Armed Institutions that we represent have a great responsibility to contribute to the fulfillment of the objectives of our governments to assure justice, legal security and the common good for the inhabitants of the parcels of the Isthmus.

Growing out of the conflicts that the societies in various latitudes are experiencing, it is possible to identify, among others, the existence of causes originating from poverty, social injustice, corruption, drug traffic, money laundering, the deterioration of the ecosystem, causes that demand adequate responses in the legal framework and the search for negotiation and conciliation mechanisms, which permit them to be resolved with the contribution of all sectors through the culture of dialogue, negotiation and harmonizing of interests (concertación).

In the context described, our Armed Forces and Armies have an irreplaceable role to undertake as an integral part of society to constitute ourselves as protagonists to foster the consolidation of the processes of peace and democracy and human and sustainable development that the Central American countries are currently beginning.

We consider that, congruent with the policy expressed by the governing bodies of Central America and the Commanders General of the respective Armed Forces and Armies of the area to make the region a "peace zone," we have examined and reflected on the issues regarding measures of transparency, cooperation and mutual trust among our armed institutions, in harmony with the "Culture of Peace" in Central America that UNESCO is promoting, measures that we ratify as being the underpinnings that have had primacy in our institutional relations.

In this regard, we declare our aim of contributing to the strengthening of a culture of peace in Central America conceived as the whole of the ethical values, the uses and customs and behavior models that they express, inspiring ourselves by them: respect for human life, dignity and rights, rejection of violence, recognition of the equality of rights of women and men and adherence to the principles of democracy, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, acceptance of difference and comprehension, both among nations and countries and among ethnic, religious and cultural groups and individuals. This concept of the culture of peace also implies a spirit of respect and reciprocal acceptance among cultures, ideologies and beliefs.

For all the above reasons, we agree to organize a plan of activities that will permit us to provide continuity to the reflection initiated in this forum.

San Salvador, June 27, 1996.

Brigade General Julio Balconi Turcios, Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Guatemala.

Brigade General Mario Raúl Hung Pacheco, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Honduras

Army General Juaquín Cuadra Lacayo, Commander in Chief of the Army of the Republic of Nicaragua.

Division General Jaime Guzmán Morales, Minister of National Defense of the Republic of El Salvador.

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