Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) is a member of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, not chairman, as reported yesterday.
Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) said yesterday that the United States should pursue a dialogue with Cuba and the nations of the Contadora group in an effort to bring peace to Central America.
Cranston, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, also called on President Reagan to withdraw U.S. ships from military maneuvers off the Nicaraguan coast, saying that "tensions have increased markedly" since they were deployed a month ago.
At a news conference following his return Monday from a five-day visit to the Contadora countries--Panama, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia--Cranston said that representatives from the latter two nations had recently visited Havana in secret to explore the willingness of President Fidel Castro to talk. They found, he said, that "Castro was receptive."
"It's time the U.S. government pursued a dialogue with Cuba through the Contadora process, because no lasting solution can be reached without the involvement of Cuba and the United States," Cranston said. "At some point, directly or indirectly, there has to be some form of communication."
Asked whether he would favor talks with Cuba by either special Ambassador Richard B. Stone or members of the National Commission on Central America, chaired by Henry A. Kissinger, Cranston said that he did not want to spell out the details of how it should be done.
"We should be guided by the Contadora powers," he said. "When they feel Castro is ready, we should be ready."
The Contadora nations, named for the island off Panama where representatives of the countries first met, have proposed region-wide negotiations, and have been meeting since February with various Central American nations in efforts to mediate their disputes.
Cranston, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said his trip had convinced him that the effort "is making visible and substantive progress," such as getting enemies to talk to each other.
He charged that the Reagan administration is "undermining Contadora" and is "only giving lip service" to the group's effort. "I have returned from Latin America firmly convinced by Contadora leaders that their efforts have been weakened by Ronald Reagan's strategy of tough talk and guns," he said.
"To continue down the path of brute force fighting the inevitable tide of social change in Latin America means the United States will always be on the wrong side," he said. "We will isolate ourselves from the countries in our hemisphere, and will eventually end up sending American troops to fight and die in a fruitless effort."
Calling for a withdrawal of "the enormous naval flotilla" involved in military maneuvers off Central America, Cranston said the president of one Contadora country told him that the U.S. fleet's presence had helped "stir up tremendous anti-American sentiment and solidify nationalist support for those it was designed to intimidate."
Cranston also called for an immediate halt to aid to rebels who are trying to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, saying the Contadora presidents had agreed that the aid is "totally counterproductive to their peace efforts." He urged increased use of "U.S. leverage" on the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala to foster human rights advances.
"The Contadora peace process needs active U.S. support if a widening war is to be averted in Central America," he said.
Rep. Frederick C. Boucher (D-Va.), who just returned from a three-day visit to Central America with three other Democratic congressmen, quoted Nicaraguan junta chief Daniel Ortega as saying that the U.S. show of force "has left Nicaragua little choice but to establish closer ties with Cuba and the Soviet Union."
In a news conference Monday, Boucher said that the four congressmen recommended immediate negotiations with Nicaragua to end its aid to rebels in El Salvador, along with continued aid to the Salvadoran government and a push for further agricultural reforms there.
Others on the trip were Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Frank Harrison (D-Pa.) and Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.).