Henry Stimson is best known for having been Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of war, but before this, 80 years ago, he played a memorable role in the history of Latin America. He acted as a mediator to put an end to the civil war in Nicaragua; negotiated a ceasefire as well as free elections, but this agreement was rejected by General Sandino. War continued, Sandino was assassinated and Somoza seized power. Following that event, Stimson stated that Central America was not ready for democracy. In 1989, together with James Baker III, I negotiated with the Congress a two-party agreement over Central America to call a halt to the guerrillas and to establish democracy in the region. Today, Central America is asking the United States to help it consolidate its democracy through a free trade agreement: the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). However, some people in the United States say that Central America is not ready for free trade and they demand protectionist measures. The CAFTA choice should not be, however, a difficult one since it is the logical conclusion of 20 years of democratic and social progress in Central America. In the countries of the region and in the Dominican Republic, the agreement is seen as a way to reform nations and make them more democratic. Making these nations be more stable will also have an impact on our security. If we reject the Agreement, this will not be replaced by a hypothetically “perfect” one, which includes in its articles all the claims of the current opponents. The world needs to know whether we are going to sacrifice the future of thousands upon thousands of Central-Americans by the protectionism of their trade unions.

Source: Washington Post (U.S.A.) Reference: “CAFTA Is a Win-Win”, by Robert B. Zoellick, Washington Post, May 24, 2005.