HC Deb 18 February 1987 vol 110 cc904-6
9. Mr. Rogers

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response the Government gave to Mr. Madrigal, Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, when he visited London to discuss his proposal for a new initiative iin Central America.

Mr. Eggar

When Senor Madrigal called on my right hon. and learned Friend to explain Costa Rica's position, he reaffirmed our strong and active support for a political solution to the problems of the region.

Mr. Rogers

At the recent Contadora conference only four EC Ministers out of 13 turned up. Does that not show the level of priority that is accorded to peace in Central America, or have we just been told by the United States to keep our nose out?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. All the EC countries were represented by senior Ministers. The fact that senior Ministers were prepared to travel to Guatemala from Europe for an important two-day conference shows the tremendous importance that is attached by EC Ministers to the Contadora process.

Mr. Key

Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to continue the strong and independent line by the British Government in pursuit of the Contadora process? Does he agree that one of the biggest problems is that the very size of the Nicaraguan army is a cause for fear amongst many neighbouring Latin American countries?

Mr. Eggar

We are deeply concerned about the situation in Central America and we are working constructively for peace, democracy and economic development. But we have to point out—it is regrettable that the Opposition do not join in pointing this out—that the Sandanista military forces are currently around 70,000. They receive considerable support from the Soviet bloc and they have a significant number of Cuban military and security advisers. That is not a way to promote peaceful evolution in the area.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Did the Minister discuss with the Costa Rican Foreign Minister the reasons for the size of the Nicaraguan forces? In particular, did he discuss the pivotal role of the United States in funding the Contras in their campaign of loot, rape and pillage, both against innocent civilians in Nicaragua and the Sandanistas?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman is extremely selective in the way in which he refers to the position in Nicaragua. I wish that he and other Opposition Members would share our desire to establish a full pluralist democracy with Nicaragua and would join us in urging a reduction in the massive quantities of Soviet weaponry already supplied, in urging Nicaragua to reduce subversion in neighbouring countries, in urging the Sandanistas to respect fully human rights and in urging them to restore full civil liberties, including a free press, the right to strike, the return of exiled Church leaders and full implementation of a new constitution.

Mr. Bowen Wells

Will my hon. Friend give the result of the recent visit of Baroness Young to Guatemala in progressing the Contadora process, which was under discussion?

Mr. Eggar

The conference served the useful purpose of bringing together all the Central American Foreign Ministers and their European and Contadora colleagues. The joint communiqué, with which my hon. Friend will be familiar, reaffirmed support for a peaceful negotiated settlement on the basis of the Contadora objectives.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister accept that, in addition to having a freely elected Government—that is a fact—Nicaragua has a population smaller than that of Yorkshire? The idea that it is a menace or a threat has been thought up by the ailing President Reagan, who is sending armaments on a grand scale. I wish that the Minister would listen to what I am saying and make it clear to the Americans that we have nothing in common with the comments of Mr. Shultz, who said the other day that he thought that eventually America would attack Nicaragua.

Mr. Eggar

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is highly selective in his views of events in Nicaragua. For instance, Nicaragua has adopted a new constitution—that is quite correct — but why, within hours, did it suspend civil rights and guarantees for human freedoms?

Mr. Wilkinson

Did the Costa Rican Foreign Minister discuss with his British counterpart the oppressive treatment of the Miskito Indians by the Sandanistas? Did the Costa Rican Minister welcome the presence of Her Majesty's forces in Belize and suggest that they remain there notwithstanding the resumption of diplomatic relations between London and Guatemala?

Mr. Eggar

Those matters were not raised on this occasion, but of course they are raised in normal diplomatic discussions.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the Minister tell the truth about the position in Central America and admit that the cause of the conflict, the war and the suffering, is the obsession of President Reagan and his Administration to destroy the process of social improvement and social revolution that is occurring in Nicaragua? President Reagan is frightened of the example that that will set to other poor and starving people throughout Latin America. It is time that the British Government came off the fence and properly supported and recognised the democratic Government of Nicaragua.

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman is displaying the normal blinkered way in which he approaches matters on the international stage. The blinkered look that he has adopted towards Nicaragua is the same as that which he has adopted towards Afghanistan when he has welcomed the so-called regime's peace initiative and condemned the actions of the Afghan resistance—

Mr. Corbyn

I did not mention Afghanistan.

Mr. Eggar

—as the hon. Gentleman has done in early-day motions on the Order Paper.

Mr. Foulkes

Does the Minister not accept that while this elaborate tangle of talks takes place innocent civilians—women and children—are dying directly as a result of United States-funded terrorism? Will the British Government have some guts for once and use their undoubted influence with the Americans to stop this war, which is increasingly seen as being waged to humour an increasingly dangerous and senile President?

Mr. Eggar

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pause and reflect on the terms of that question. It is extremely serious for an Opposition Front Bench spokesman to make an accusation and use such words.

With regard to Central America we continue to advocate a political solution while, at the same time, expressing our concern at the direction of the Sandanista Government and their unwillingness to reach a peaceful conclusion to the problems in Nicaragua.

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