The failure of the Nicaraguan government and the Contras to reach agreement on a peace settlement is disappointing, perhaps inevitable at this stage, but not the end of the peace process. Indeed, the good prospect for continued negotiations was recognized in a variety of statements, including those of the White House and the head of the Organization of American States.
There are troubling elements. The Sandinistas who rule Nicaragua remain in conspicuous violation of their commitment in the Aug. 7 peace agreement to grant amnesty; much of the most recent round of negotiations was spent quibbling over releasing hundreds of political prisoners who should have been long since released. The Contras' sincerity in the negotiations was clouded once again when agreement appeared close, only to be shattered by their new and difficult demands.
"We still hope that a peaceful solution can be achieved," the White House spokesman said. That is a welcome response. But it did not silence a small group within Congress who proposed a resumption of U.S. arms to the Contras even before the negotiations had reached a stalemate on Thursday.
"I don't see that the negotiations process is broken," Joao Baena Soares, OAS secretary general, commented. He had been an observer at the latest round of talks. His counsel is of particular value because all of the significant contributions to the peace process have come from the Latin Americans themselves, including the adoption by the five Central American presidents last August of the peace plan drafted by Oscar Arias Sanchez, president of Costa Rica. It is the leaders of Central America and the OAS who must prod the negotiations and judge their progress.