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Grupo de Contadora

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 1984

Speech by Mr Bernardo Sepúlveda Amor

It is a great privilege for me to receive the Prince of Asturias Award for Ibero-American Cooperation on behalf of Mexico and its president Miguel Lamadrid. Via this distinction, Spain honours the peace-seeking encounters of the Contadora Group. Without doubt, this accolade constitutes a stimulus for political dialogue and the recognition that it should be an essential part of understanding among nations, in any circumstance or point in time. It also confirms our belief that, faced with the ominous backdrop of war, crisis and intolerance in Central America, the vigorous spirit of peace will have to rise above self-centred positions and self-interested meddling.

For the Mexican people, heir to a foreign policy with solid principles and deep historical roots, this recognition has not come to pass in a vacuum. They understand it as a joyful expression on the greatness of Spain, appreciating among its merits a rich tradition committed to peace. As a symbol of satisfaction for the work carried out, this award also supposes a delicate responsibility to successfully achieve the common goal of political understanding and security.

It is therefore important to reflect on the profound value of peace in our day. To recognize that it is heritage of the global community and hence of an indivisible part of the conscience of each nation. Wherever peace is violated, the sovereignty of countries is in effect infringed upon. Peace is our historic responsibility. Mexico underlines its hope that the governments of the Central American area will know how to interpret –with a sense of history– the voice of those who reject the prospect of brothers fighting against brothers and the murky option of resentment.

The complexity of the situation in Central America has logically necessitated the search for solutions in accordance with the circumstances. Nothing has remained immovable in our world or our century. International institutions face problems of efficacy, aggravated by the interests of those who benefit from conflict. The creation of the Contadora Group was –and continues to be– a useful, original and committed response aimed at facilitating communication. It does not seek to supplant the responsibilities that do not correspond to it or impose asymmetric obligations on anyone. In a changing reality, this diplomatic formula is the unequivocal fruit of our modernity, of the imperative to fit requirements and possibilities to the different causes within a conciliatory framework; our four nations foment the validity of the postulates and foundations on which the society of states is built.

An act of political imagination and complex diplomatic management, the Contadora Group proposes –it does not impose– a system of peace and cooperation. The foundations of this system are legitimate because they bring together the best of contributions from Central America. However, its viability depends on an inexorable political reality: the fundamental responsibility of putting into effect and fulfilling a set of imperative norms of coexistence between states belongs to each Central American government.

They should decide as sovereign nations, circumventing the machinations of those who endanger sovereignties, in favour of a valid option that brings the way to peace closer.

Basic political commitments are proposed. Letting this option get away via chimerical projects with no foreseeable end will only serve to prolong suffering and destruction in our region.

It will be impossible for the Central American peoples to aspire to develop in a reality bristling with the ploys of war. How can formulas be found for political harmony and social balance when tempted by the force of arms? Our historical experience shows that democracy as a way of life does not flourish in a scenario of confrontation. To the contrary, it requires fertile ground for political communication and the capacity for dialogue, authentic respect for a pluralistic project and the prevalence of the principles of law.

Although an essential commitment for Latin America, peace in the isthmus is also profoundly universal. That is why we made a new call to the community of nations, and in particular to the countries involved in the crisis, to firmly and unswervingly support the peace process in Central America. We find ourselves on the eve of a decisive stage. The time has come to take the step towards the signing of responsible agreements that strengthen solidarity, awareness and sovereignty or fall behind, waiting for history to someday condemn our mistakes and omissions.

Mexico is confident that the force of peace, due to its intrinsic merits, but also as an imperative of national interest, is the force that will impose itself.

Your Majesties, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On expressing gratitude for the granting of this Award which ennobles Mexico’s foreign policy, on behalf of President Miguel Lamadrid I express my thanks and appreciation for Spain’s unstinting support for the work of the Contadora Group and its invaluable contribution to the cause of peace and rapprochement among our peoples.

Speech by Isidro Morales Paúl

A historical imperative.

The Prince of Asturias Award, designed to honour the work of Spanish and Latin American public figures who have been distinguished for their contribution to any field of knowledge or to Ibero-American cooperation, is today bestowed on the accomplishment of Peace, on the will of Latin American men and women who made the search for understanding and harmony among peoples both a goal and a mandate.

The Central American isthmus that the genius Bolivar conceived as a new Corinth has become a confluence of ambition, a scenario of conflict and a place of confrontation. It provides the geographic backbone of a vast continent. A piece of American motherland settled by old and new peoples who patiently await a solution to secular injustice: clinging to their commitment to peace and unity, rooted in their libertarian heritage, the legacy of the heroes of independence and those who, like Bolivar, pleaded the Latin American cause.

Towards the search for peace.

This isthmus is, at the same time, a witness to concerted, determined and sustained efforts aimed at bringing about peace.

Enthused by solidarity, the countries that make up the Contadora Group –Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela–, that is to say, the successor nations to Spain mixed with black and indigenous blood, have assumed the task of seeking peace in Central America. This task has been stirred by the understanding and support of friendly governments and peoples, among which Spain’s heartening words stand out, due to this country’s historical significance and close affinity.

Convinced that peace cannot be the conscientious utopia that conceives it as an abstract good, nor is it a generous gift and even less a trophy than can be gained by means of the indifferent repose of those who forsake any form of action. Peace is a vocation and a decision which becomes an imperative to fight back when threatened. The peace we seek is first and foremost an act of justice.

With its burden of poverty and backwardness, social inequality alters our sense of balance, affects our nature as a continent of freedom. We have been the object of greed. Today, we are the focus of the craving for dominance of those seeking to exacerbate our contradictions and change our dream of living in a democracy for the nightmare of war.

The peace that the governments that make up the Contadora Group fosters agreements and coincidences tending to achieve harmonic growth in every part of the social sphere, levelling out inequalities, the product of the self-determining decision of the region’s peoples.

This award motivates us to continue our efforts to form a strong, united Latin America, a Latin America that is aware of its responsibility in the concert of nations. It is of particular significance, due to tangibly demonstrating the level of understanding of Spain and Europe as a whole of our countries, the expression of a new era of cooperation and mutual respect that looms before us as a plausible reality to cultivate reciprocal exchange and encourage efforts, the ideal path to dispel the shadows of anguish and uncertainty that plague the world in which we live.

We want democracy not as a formal structure or as a dream of a frustrated, ambitious mind, but as evidence of ways of life, of a permanent attitude of channelling society. We believe in political democracy as an instrument of social democracy. By social democracy, we understand the rule of justice, equitable distribution of wealth, guaranteed minimum living conditions: food, housing, education, the right to work. It is no wonder that it is Spain, the origin and font of our identity, which grants this award as yet another irrefutable proof of its commitment to collaborate in furthering our development. Latin America is grateful for this deed and reiterates its irrevocable decision to continue fighting for peace and Latin American unity.

I would like to conclude by most sincerely expressing thanks, on behalf of the Government of Venezuela, and especially our President, Dr Jaime Luisinchi, whom I represent in this moving event:

To King Juan Carlos; who has known how to guide this country so aptly and so wisely.

To His Royal Highness The Prince of Asturias; whom I evoke here on behalf of that “beautiful plural America”, a master stroke that he used to define us, on the occasion of granting this same award to His Excellency The President of Colombia.

To the Prince of Asturias Foundation; which, in the best tradition of this generous land of Asturias with its deep roots in American soil, saw fit to grant this coveted award. To the Government and people of Spain; who, with their unstructured sense of nobility, have known how to reassess the relations of harmony, cooperation and complementarity among our countries.

We thank you on behalf of the long-suffering peoples of Central American who desire peace, at last. We thank you in the name of peace, that increasingly scarce, longed-for goal that represents the supreme yearning of the peoples of the world.

Speech by Mr Augusto Ramírez Ocampo

In 1992, five centuries will have passed since the commencement of the luminous saga in which the destinies of Spain and America came together. The creative breath of Isabella and Ferdinand filled the sails of Columbus’ caravels, bringing about so lofty a deed in the annals of Humanity. A point at which man discovered not only a continent, but also inquired, for the first time, as to the exact size of his abode, the planet that is both his accommodation and his destiny.

Spain did so; Spain, the creator of wise men and conquistadors from the dawn of its history; Spain, home to a thinking that had the virtue of assuming the vast legacy of Greek metaphysics, Roman law and the Christian religion, which, according to Xavier Zubiri, are the three crowning events in the course of Humanity.

This nation –so dearly bound to our history– led the conception of new peoples, suffered the agony of independence, was witness to the consolidation of nations and –today– fraternally shares with us the task of reaffirmation under the double ensign of freedom and democracy.

Now, close to the new meeting of two ancient cultures, that of the Hispanic and Amerindian peoples, it is worth pointing out that our ties have not diminished, neither in the catharsis of separation in the 19th century nor in the discontented upheavals with which our peoples prepare to leave the 20th century behind.

On the contrary, America has strengthened its legacy and contributed a new source of wealth to the human spirit: the flourishing of a language with new possibilities of expression and creativity, the concurrence of millions of beings in the consolidation of their faith and the broad spectrum of political, cultural and economic relations.

In no other endeavour in History was there so happy a symbiosis between seemingly opposing worlds, or an amalgam of values such as that achieved in these five centuries of common history.

Civilization, affirmed Ortega, is first and foremost the will to coexist. That unitary force has inspired the relations between our peoples and has taken them much further: to participation and solidarity.

For all these reasons, the Prince of Asturias Awards constitute an affirmation of this successive and enduring shared civilization.

Allow me, therefore, to point out to Your Majesties that the granting of these Awards, which constitute so precious a stimulus for political action and intellectual invention, also expresses the admirable exercise of a Monarchy, the core element in the history of this nation and a source of admiration and respect on the part of our republics and of its own countrymen and women, due to the lofty and worthy role it has played in contemporary Spanish life.

Our century has been lamentably prolific in manifesting ferocity, cruelty and death, but we continue in our endeavours and our yearning for the essential scenario for progress: peace.

A peace that president Belisario Betancur defined as the result of justice. Peace conceived as an equitable distribution of good and bad between each and every man and woman. That is the goal towards which those of us who form part of the conglomerate of Latin American peoples walk, united around that force that the great Darío called “the spiritual domain of Spain”.

Contadora came into being as the fruit of serene meditation on the destiny of Latin America, in the midst of the convulsions of the struggle which pretended, by force of arms, to turn that land –which is also ours– into the scenario of the fight between two major powers. It was, therefore, a statement about our capacity to decide and is also a system of unity and cooperation of regional scope.

Our conception is not limited to understanding peace as the mere absence of war or of seeing it as a brief interlude between two armed conflicts. That is how the major powers conceive it. For them, peace is linked only to the deactivation of nuclear warheads or to achieving a balance of terror.

For us, peace is a concept which is intimately related to poverty, hunger and injustice. That is why economic and social issues are as important as disarmament in the Contadora Act.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of our work is that it aims to be a catalyst for the yearnings of a region and for peoples who are fully aware of their difficulties and of the way to achieve peace, their own peace. Not because of foreign imposition or as the culmination of a war of domination, but rather a pact obtained through their participation and their own deliberations.

The Contadora Group does not aim to impose peace in Central America, but simply to help these countries in conflict to establish it in accordance with their own free will. The difficulty lies in making conflicting interests accept this approach; this need for a peace based, as Quevedo put it, “on religion, conscience, and freedom justified by the motherland”.

Disarmament, democracy, development, human rights, the participation of the people and social justice; these are, in short, the fundamentals of this joint effort which, in San José, found firm institutional support from the European Community, Spain and Portugal.

Peace, which Colombia has helped to find in Central America, is not our only goal. President Belisario Betancur has led another process of dialogue with those sectors in our country which chose subversion as an illusory alternative to vindicate their ideas and agendas and has preferred constructive dialogue to repression. He has chosen to extend a friendly hand for reconciliation and has successfully opened up the path that will lead us to an understanding and national peace.

In this Kingdom of Asturias, where Jovellanos inspired action against invaders. In this heroic city –the same one that Clarín wrote of with the words “the city of heroes was having a nap”, which it has never had, not since the air rang out deafeningly with the sound of Pelayo’s invincible steel at Covadonga–, we receive this qualified distinction and proudly proclaim our vigorous spiritual unity with Spain.

Without precluding its own leading role in the complex world of the 21st century, Latin America finds light and spirit, strength and creation in Spain.

Hand in hand, America and Spain are called to investigate the five centuries of History they have in common so as to lay the foundations of a new alliance, now that the clear skies that herald a new millennium are visible on the horizon.

For, as our very own Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez stated, “to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life... A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth”.

Thank you very much.

Speech by Mr Oydén Ortega Durán

It is an enviable honour the one we are granted here today by the Kingdom of Spain, on making us worthy of the Award for Ibero-American Cooperation for our efforts in favour of peace in Central America. On behalf of my country, I thank the Prince of Asturias Foundation –as do the other members of the Contadora Group– for recognizing this shared effort that began in January 1983 and whose success is seen as an example for humanity and a method for achieving a balance among nations. This dialogue was possible despite the nature and complexity of the problems accumulated by five states in times of extreme severity.

In our efforts to promote understanding and entente, we have counted from the beginning on the solid and effective, dignified and constructive support of this nation, to which we are bound by deep-rooted ties established by history and reaffirmed today by destiny. It could not be otherwise; as, when Fray Francisco de Vitoria commented on the conquest of the Indies from his Chair at the School of Salamanca, he laid the foundations of international law, converting the rules that govern the coexistence of nations into heritage of mankind.

Contemporary historiography highlights Spain’s three centuries in America as model of institutional order and social humanism. And it was precisely a Spaniard, Miguel de Unamuno, who pointed out the deep-seated Hispanic roots of the Liberator Simon Bolivar. It would appear that his thinking has become contemporary on noting that, although he was born in Venezuela, the scene of his triumphs was Colombia and Panama was the focus of defensive alliances, the Amphictyonic Congress was to conclude in Mexico. So it may be said that our work boasts Hispanic tradition and Bolivarian inspiration.

This body of its history and soul of its policy –if I may use Gracián’s words– is what provides meaning to an intimate collaboration between yesteryear’s provinces and today’s sovereign republics with the motherland. In our endeavour to bring about peace in the region, we have worked with tenacity and faith, but also with the composure that experience provides, the patience imposed by perseverance and the shared elements Spain left as a spiritual legacy in America, all of which has allowed us to coordinate what initially appeared as irreconcilable issues and conflicting interests. Today, as we approach the commemoration of the 5th Centenary of the encounter, such profound ties are worth stressing; ties which become an inspiring numen and an explanatory logos.

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