Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias said Wednesday that peace in Central America is not possible without economic development, security and stronger democratic institutions.
Arias made the statement at the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Esquipulas Two Accords, which ended the armed conflicts in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
"We cannot continue being a region of peace with hunger, peace with fear, and peace with hate," he said.
The accord won Arias the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize and prompted the creation of the Arias Foundation which helped Panama abolish its army.
In his speech he thanked the presidents who signed the agreement 20 years ago: El Salvador's Jose Napoleon Duarte, Honduras's Jose Azcona, Guatemala's Vinicio Cerezo and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.
Arias urged Central American leaders to consolidate the region by forming a bloc and said free trade and better democratic systems are essential for development.
He praised the positive aspects of free trade and criticized those who opposed the ratification of the region's free trade agreement with the United States and the Dominican Republic, which Costa Ricans will put to a referendum on Oct. 7.
Arias said that the speeches against the agreement, which raise doubts about democratic institutions, are dangerous because they diminish the peace and democracy which the country has enjoyed.
"We are playing with fire," he said. "Neither Costa Rica nor Latin America in general can continue sliding down the slope from verbal violence to the start of conflicts. Nothing is as important in our region, a region which little deserves to return to those dark years of civil conflict".