Nonaligned meeting: limited victory for Castro

The latest message from the so-called nonaligned movement is hardly encouraging to the United States. After several days of grueling meetings here, 87 members of the movement issued a communique at the weekend that indirectly rapped the US for ''intervention'' in Latin American affairs. It also called for a negotiated settlement to the region's problems.

In broad terms, the communique was viewed by conference participants as a diplomatic victory for Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

In fact, the meeting itself - called in Nicaragua specifically to discuss political and economic problems in Latin America and any US responsibility for the problems - signals Castro's role in ''radicalizing'' and ''Latinizing'' the 21-year-old, 97-member nonaligned movement.

However, Castro's success may be limited.

For one thing, the communique was not as critical as Castro had wanted. It did not mention the US by name, and moderate members prevailed on delegates to tone down an earlier draft of the statement highly critical of the US.

Furthermore, moderate nations have been heaving sighs of relief that Cuba's chairmanship is over. After a three-year term of office, Castro is to hand over the chairmanship of the movement to India in March.

''Now we can return to the movement's original principles,'' noted one African foreign minister. ''Far from following Nehru's principle of equidistance between the superpowers and noninvolvement in their concerns, Cuba considered the Soviet Union a natural ally,'' observed an Asian delegate.

Until Castro's chairmanship, African and Asian nations had dominated the grouping. But nine out of Latin America's current 14 members joined the movement under Cuba's chairmanship. The African foreign minister said the already extremely politically heterogenous movement was polarized almost to the breaking point under Cuba's chairmanship. Under Indian leadership, the movement is expected to adopt a less confrontational tone.

''Initially members were united by fundamental principles of decolonization. But now they are moving on,'' observed one delegate. ''Developing nations, facing increasingly desperate economic futures, believe a concerted approach is the best way to pressure the developed world and better their lot.''

Indebtedness was much discussed at the summit, and was a central point in Nicaraguan junta coordinator Daniel Ortega Saavedra's policy speech in the opening session here.

The conference also broke new ground by discussing problems in a regional framework. Some delegates say this is a signal that Latin American nations may use the nonaligned movement as a an alternative to the Organization of American States as a forum to discuss regional affairs.

Such a development ''could have a very serious effect for us,'' says one US official.

''In the past, the US felt it could virtually dismiss the nonaligned movement as a bunch of tin pot African and Asian states headed by middle-ranking powers, '' said one official at the conference. ''But now major powers from its own back yard (such as Colombia and Venezuela) are poised to join while the chairmanship goes to India, a world power with international credibility as a moderate. This makes it a different ball game.''

The Managua meeting and communique and the attendance of so many delegations is seen as a major diplomatic triumph for the beleaguered, left-leaning Sandinista regime and builds upon Managua's earlier success in gaining a seat in the UN Security Council last November.

Only last week, foreign ministers of Panama, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela advocated negotiations involving Nicaragua, the US, and warring factions in El Salvador.

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