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Volume 81: debated on Tuesday 18 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the Government's current attitude toward the Government of Nicaragua; and if he will make a statement.

We share the concern of many Central American states at Nicaragua's build-up of arms and increasingly close contacts with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Our future relations will depend on Nicaragua establishing genuine democracy, scaling down her armaments, and putting an end to support for subversion in the region.

Why does the Minister persist in putting all the blame on Nicarague? Would not our relations with Nicaragua and peace in Central America be significantly improved if the Government said categorically that they did not support the American policy of giving money to the Contras, and that they do not support President Reagan's avowed aim of getting rid of the Sandinista Government by peaceful or other means? Is that not the right policy for us?

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the $27 million recently voted by Congress was specifically an appropriation for non-military aid to cover food, medicine, clothing and other humanitarian purposes. It is not a case of putting the blame entirely on Nicaragua. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the emphasis of our policy and, indeed, of the policy of the Contadora group is to persuade all countries in Central America to scale down their military spending and to withdraw their forces from other countries. That is the only way to achieve peace in the region.

Is it not a fact that Nicaragua could make the best possible contribution towards a generally more acceptable atmosphere for its country if it followed the example of other dictatorships, such as Uruguay and El Salvador, and held genuinely free elections, not the sort of bogus elections, which were so bogus that Her Majesty's Government refused even to send observers to them?

Yes, Sir. One of our aims is to persuade Nicaragua to move towards a genuine pluralist democracy.