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Arias' Hope

December 11, 1987

President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica, in the eloquence and wisdom of his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, has given the hemisphere an inspired and appropriate road map for the future.

To the United States and the Soviet Union, Arias had a message that was clear and simple and compelling: Leave us alone.

"If they, for their own purposes, cannot refrain from amassing the weapons of war, then, in the name of God, at least they should leave us in peace," he said.

To those who already are ready to write off the Aug. 7 Central American peace agreement, he had two important thoughts: Let us judge its effectiveness, and abandon unrealistic expectations.

"Leave the interpretation and implementation of the peace plan to us" he said. "Support the efforts for peace instead of the forces of war in our region." But he also acknowledged the complexity of the task, affirming that peace "has no finishing line, no final deadline, no fixed definition of achievement. Peace is a never-ending process, the work of many decisions by many people in many countries."

Before he spoke, he made clear his opposition to continued U.S. support for the Contras fighting in Nicaragua. As he spoke, he outlined his goals for the region: "We seek in Central America not peace alone, not peace to be followed someday by political progress, but peace and democracy, together, indivisible, an end to the shedding of human blood, which is inseparable from an end to the suppression of human rights. We do not judge, much less condemn, any other nation's political or ideological system, freely chosen and never exported."

The ceremony in Oslo coincided with the eighth birthday of Arias' son, Oscar Felipe, who sat with his family for the presentation. "I say to him, and through him to all the children of my country, that we shall never resort to violence, we shall never support military solutions to the problems of Central America," Arias affirmed.

There was an urgency, a timeliness to his remarks as the struggle continued to implement the peace plan for which he won the Nobel prize. Death-squad activity is increasing in El Salvador, another human-rights activist a victim of the brutality. And both government and Contra leaders in Nicaragua continue to resist Arias' call, as a "first priority," for a Christmas truce in that battered and impoverished nation. But, clearly, Arias has not lost hope, and his address has given others cause to share his confidence.

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