New Approach to Central America

May 5, 1989

Report Outline
Special Focus


President Bush is dealing with Central America in a much different way from his predecessor. His administration has forged a bipartisan contra-aid package with Congress, it has consulted with American allies, and it has even allowed the Central American countries themselves to take a leading role in a regional peace process. But fighting continues in many places, and as long as it does, Central America cannot hope to deal effectively with its disastrous economic condition.

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On the campaign trail in 1988, candidate George Bush offered nary a word of disagreement with the Central America policies of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. He would, he indicated, build on Reagan's “successes.” But the early indications from President George Bush are that—in important respects—he intends to pursue a very different approach toward that part of the world. Bush has, for all intents and purposes, scrapped the Reagan administration's seven-year military effort to topple the Marxist government of Nicaragua. And he has taken a much more flexible approach to the problem of the Third World's massive debt.

The Bush administration has handled things in a much different political way, too. Where the Reagan administration often moved unilaterally, and sometimes secretly, the Bush administration appears to be reaching out to include nearly everyone in its foreign policy initiatives—Congress, allies in Central America and the rest of Latin America, other industrialized countries, even the Soviet Union. On the domestic front, the Reagan administration's policies divided the American electorate into pro- and anti-contra aid camps. That led to a major split with Congress and prevented the United States from speaking with one voice on Central America. By contrast, the first aim of Bush's secretary of state, James A. Baker III, was to forge a bipartisan consensus in Congress on Central America: an agreement for continued non-military U.S. aid to the contras (at least until Nicaragua holds presidential elections in February), while giving Congress an interim, informal veto power if the Bush administration undermines a comprehensive peace plan drawn up by five Central American presidents.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Latin America
Sep. 14, 2018  Turmoil in Central America
Jun. 05, 2012  China in Latin America
Mar. 2008  The New Latin America
Jul. 21, 2006  Change in Latin America
Mar. 14, 2003  Trouble in South America
Nov. 09, 2001  U.S.- Mexico Relations
Sep. 19, 1997  Mexico's Future
Jul. 19, 1991  Mexico's Emergence
May 05, 1989  New Approach to Central America
Mar. 06, 1987  Soviets' Latin Influence
Dec. 26, 1986  Pinochet's Chile
Nov. 08, 1985  Troubled Mexico
Apr. 10, 1981  Latin American Challenges
May 05, 1978  Central America and the U.S.A.
Sep. 23, 1977  Mexican-U.S. Relations
Jun. 04, 1976  Relations with Latin America
Oct. 21, 1970  Chile's Embattled Democracy
Jun. 24, 1970  Mexico's Election and the Continuing Revolution
Apr. 02, 1969  Economic Nationalism in Latin America
Jul. 19, 1967  Guerrilla Movements in Latin America
Dec. 28, 1966  Militarism in Latin America
Oct. 20, 1965  Common Market for Latin America
Aug. 04, 1965  Smoldering Colombia
Jun. 23, 1965  Inter-American Peacekeeping
Dec. 11, 1963  Progress of the Alianza
Oct. 05, 1962  Arms Aid to Latin America
Dec. 13, 1961  Land and Tax Reform in Latin America
Jul. 26, 1961  Commodity Agreements for Latin America
Jan. 11, 1961  Revolution in the Western Hemisphere
Feb. 10, 1960  Inter-American System
Feb. 10, 1960  Inter-American System
Jan. 13, 1960  Expropriation in Latin America
Jul. 02, 1958  Economic Relations with Latin America
Mar. 02, 1954  Communism in Latin America
Jun. 20, 1952  Political Unrest in Latin America
Sep. 18, 1950  War Aid from Latin America
Oct. 31, 1947  Arming the Americas
Jul. 24, 1946  Inter-American Security
Jan. 02, 1942  Latin America and the War
Jul. 10, 1941  Export Surpluses and Import Needs of South America
Jun. 04, 1941  Economic Defense of Latin America
Jun. 25, 1940  Politics in Mexico
Nov. 01, 1939  Pan American Political Relations
Oct. 10, 1939  United States Trade with Latin America
Apr. 07, 1938  Protection of American Interests in Mexico
Mar. 04, 1936  Peace Machinery in the Americas
Sep. 27, 1933  Trade Relations with Latin America
Oct. 16, 1928  Pan American Arbitration Conference
Jan. 12, 1928  The Sixth Pan American Conference
Jan. 10, 1927  American Policy in Nicaragua
Dec. 27, 1926  Relations Between Mexico and the United States
Bilateral and Regional Trade
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean