How Arias Sees Soviet Latin America Policy

Following Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's recent visit to Cuba, World Monitor television's Nicole Szulc interviewed Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez. Excerpted below are his comments on Soviet policy in Latin America:

Q: Did you hear what you wanted to hear from Mr. Gorbachev?

A: To be honest, I was expecting much more. It is not a violation to the Central American Peace Plan to keep on supporting military in Central American governments. That's what he has done in the past with Nicaragua. He has allowed the Sandinistas to build the strongest army in the whole region. Much stronger than the other armies put together.

But we didn't hear a word about the military support to the rebel forces in the region. In this country, about two years ago I came to address the Congress and ask your congressmen to give a chance to peace. And they cut military aid to the contras. No one has answered, where are the guerrillas getting their arms? They don't come from heaven, so this is why I wanted to hear from Fidel Castro, Mr. Gorbachev. I suppose we have to wait a little bit longer.

Q: Is there anything that gives you some reason for optimism that the Soviets are changing?

A: I think that the road is open so that Mr. Baker can discuss with Mr. Shevardnadze. That is quite an advance as long as Washington is prepared to put the Central American conflict in the agenda with the Soviets. That's a tremendous advance. Now, we have to be realistic. We cannot expect from Mr. Gorbachev to change in a few months what he and many other people have not been able to change in 70 years. And again, from Fidel Castro we cannot expect Fidel Castro to change in a few months after 30 years of dogmatism... But he has to find out that sooner or later he has to step down from the mountains...

Q: Do you think he understands that?

A: I think he's beginning to understand this. I think that he knows that he's more isolated today than ever before. He knows that he's no longer the revolutionary romantic of the '60s.... admired by youth all over the world. That is not the case any more.

Q: Where do we go from here?

A: I think that, well, in the case of Nicaragua, you know, we're all waiting for the Sandinistas to advance in their democratization and getting prepared for free and democratic elections, for holding free and democratic elections next February, and at the same time, simultaneously to relocate and repatriate the contras ... now in Honduras.

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