President Carlos Andres Perez used his inauguration ceremony to appeal to Latin American leaders to form a united front on the $410 billion they owe foreign creditors.
Perez, who took office Thursday, will play host to Friday's meeting on the region's debt crisis with the presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay and foreign ministers of Argentina and Mexico.They are expected to consider a proposal to hold a conference between the Latin debtor nations and seven major creditor countries - Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and West Germany.
The officials attended the swearing-in ceremony, in which Perez blamed what he called Latin America's "vicious cycle of debt and economic stagnation" on debt payments that consume most of the region's resources.
He also said that improved relations between the United States and Latin America would have to include discussions on the $410 billion regional debt and peace in Central America.
Vice President Dan Quayle, also in Caracas for the inauguration, called the proposal a "non-starter."
Quayle discussed the issue with Latin American leaders, including Brazil's President Jose Sarney, whose country heads the list of debtor nations with $114 billion. Next on the debtor list is Mexico, followed by Argentina.
Sarney told Quayle he favored treating the debt as a "political" issue, meaning it should be dealt with on a government-to-government basis.
Quayle said he would relay the demands to President Bush, but that he did not expect major shifts in the U.S. position.
President Felipe Gonzalez of Spain called the idea unrealistic.
On Thursday, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua announced five Central American presidents agreed to meet in El Salvador Feb. 13-14 for talks on regional peace.
Among issues to be discussed would be democratic reforms in Nicaragua, according to Ortega.
The Central American presidents agreed in August 1987 to a plan for cease-fires in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.