Friday's meeting in Mexicali between President Reagan and Mexico's President Miguel de la Madrid will not be as dramatic as other summits that Reagan has had with world leaders. But that does not diminish its importance.
For the first time in the series of meetings between Reagan and De la Madrid, no one anticipates public disagreement between Mexican and U.S. officials over Central America. With Mexico facing a worsened economic situation since earthquakes ravaged the heart of the nation in September, government leaders have focused most of their attention on internal matters.
Since the crisis in Central America began in 1979 with the overthrow of Nicaragua's dictatorship by a leftist revolution, Mexican leaders have tried to calm Washington's fears about what is happening in that volatile region. U.S. officials, especially those appointed by Reagan, insist that the Nicaraguan revolution and guerrilla insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala are part and parcel of the struggle between the Soviet Bloc and the Western allies. The Mexicans consistently strive to remind them that Central America's problems also stem from historic social and political injustices there.
More important, Mexico and the other nations of the Contadora Group (Venezuela, Colombia and Panama) have tried to offer a diplomatic alternative to Reagan's heavy-handed policies in Central America. While the Administration has poured large amounts of military aid into El Salvador and Honduras, and has waged a barely covert campaign to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, Mexican diplomats have patiently tried to draw up a peace treaty that they hope will keep the five Central American countries from warring with each other long enough to resolve their internal problems. This Contadora process has been slow and frustrating. Recently the countries involved agreed to delay their peacemaking efforts until later this year, when new governments are installed in Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Some fear that this is the end of Contadora, but it is vital that the peace process continue.