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Grupo de Contadora

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 1984

The Contadora Group was created on the 9th January 1983 during a conference held on the Panamanian island of the same name, with the aim of seeking the pacification of Central America, and in particular an end to the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, and the confrontation between Nicaragua and the United States.

The Group, conceived of as a platform for political negotiation, and composed of diplomatic representatives of Mexico, Venezuela, Panama and Colombia, was mainly characterised by seeking ways for dialogue and for regional solutions to prevent Central-American conflicts from been drawn into the East-West confrontation.

In May 1983, called together by the group, the chancellors of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, agreed upon a working agenda to achieve those objectives. In mid-June the process received a new boost, with the meetings in Cancún, Mexico of the presidents of the four countries forming the group, who stated that Central-American problems should be solved by the Central Americans themselves. In September, the five countries in the area signed a 21-point Objectives Document, which guided all their actions until the signing of the Peace of Esquipulas, years later.

At the start of 1984 specific compromises were reached for the fulfilment of the 21 points, which would include actions to obtain the disarmament and the demobilization of guerrilla organizations in the area. After the invasion of Grenada by the United States in November 1983, armed aggression by the superpower against Nicaragua seemed imminent. the activities of the Contadora Group, with the express support of the international community, and a series of measures taken by the Sandinista government, such as a partial amnesty, the announcement of elections, the stopping of aid to the guerrillas in El Salvador and the reduction of the Cuban presence in their country made direct North American intervention more difficult.

In June 1984 the group presented the five Central-American countries with a draft of the "Contadora Minutes for peace and cooperation in Central America", with proposals for arms reductions and the holding of elections, supported by the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Community. However, this could not be put into practice at that time due to the opposition of Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica, whose governments were under pressure from the United States.

These problems led, in 1985, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru to create the Contadora Support Group, in response to the initiative presented by Alán García upon his investiture as President of Peru on the 28th July that same year.

On the 7th April 1986, the chancellors of the Eight (The Contadora Group and the Support Group) invited the five Central-American governments to sign the definitive text of the Contadora Minutes in Panama on the following 6th June, but the pressure of Washington on Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador led these countries to postpone signing indefinitely, making allegations regarding joint military manoeuvres with the forces of countries from outside the region and adding new arms control conditions.

In May 1986, Contadora achieved its decisive triumph, when the five Central-American presidents met in Esquipulas and signed a declaration which came to be known by the name of the city where it was signed. One year later, the President of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias, presented a ten-point plan which made it possible, in August 1987, to agree upon a "Procedure for Establishing Solid and Lasting Peace in Central-America", which gained worldwide fame under the name of Esquipulas II, although it was signed in Guatemala City.

The fulfilment of this protocol, which led to the disarming of the Contras, elections in Nicaragua and negotiations between guerrillas and governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, was only possible thanks to the tenacious and continual work of the Contadora Group, from its highest authorities down to the commissions and sub-commissions created to deal with each specific point.

In later years, the Group of Eight continued to endorse different agreements and commitments for peace, development and democracy in these Latin American countries.

As of 1990, the Contadora Group adopted the name Rio Group (G-Rio).

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