Esquipulas, on Guatemala's eastern border with Honduras, is best known today for its towering white basilica, which draws thousands of religious pilgrims each year.

But the town goes down in history as the birthplace of a landmark peace accord in Central America, signed at a time when the Contras were battling the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and death tolls were mounting in El Salvador and Guatemala as the military fought to upend leftist guerrillas.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Esquipulas peace agreement by five Central American presidents, which paved the way, albeit not immediately, for a negotiated end to civil war across the isthmus.

Former President Arias said in a Los Angeles Times interview in 2000, when asked how he was able to get leaders to agree to a peaceful solution: “I appealed to their sense of history, to their responsibility of transferring to our children a peaceful Central America, to their dignity, not accepting what Washington was recommending.

He was also helped by international events, including the Iran contra scandal, the murder of Jesuit priests in El Salvador, and the fall of the Berlin Wall – all of which fractured US views about what was at stake in Central America, says Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin America Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center and editor of “In the Wake of War: Democratization and Internal Armed Conflict in Latin America.”

“The end of the wars in Central America was a confluence of changes in the US that created an opening... and the region's leaders coming together around an alternative proposal,” Ms. Arnson says.


Original article here.