Statement by Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the President's Action Withholding Approval of Legislation Concerning El Salvador

November 30, 1983

The President today withheld approval of H.R. 4042, an enrolled bill that would require two Presidential certifications regarding El Salvador in 1984 or until the enactment of new legislation imposing conditions on U.S. military assistance for that country.

This administration is firmly committed to the protection of human rights, economic and political reforms, the holding of elections, and progress in prosecuting the cases of murdered American citizens in El Salvador. However, the process of certification as called for in H.R. 4042 would not serve to support these endeavors.

His decision to oppose this certification legislation reflects the administration's policy that such requirements distort our efforts to improve human rights, democracy, and recovery in El Salvador. The key certification provisions of the present bill are already addressed in this year's continuing resolution which requires a separate certification on progress in the area of land reform and withholds 30 percent of military assistance funds until the Government of El Salvador has completed the investigation and trial in the churchwomen's case.

At the same time, the President wishes to emphasize that the administration remains fully committed to the support of democracy, reform, and human rights in El Salvador. Those very concerns are a central component of our policy. They were clearly articulated by our Ambassador, Tom Pickering, as recently as last Friday. The withholding of approval from H.R. 4042 in no way reflects a lessening of our interests in these critical areas. The President has also instructed the Department of State to continue to provide the Congress with periodic public reports -- the next on January 16, 1984 -- on the political, economic, and military situation in El Salvador.

Working with the leadership of the Government of El Salvador, we will reconfirm our joint resolve to take whatever action is necessary to help the Government of El Salvador to end the reprehensible activities of the violent right as well as the violent left. The United States will also work to preserve and expand the progress that has been achieved in the area of land reform and to maintain the momentum toward holding open and democratic elections next year in accordance with the provision of the new constitution being prepared in El Salvador's Constituent Assembly.

There must exist a genuine awareness, both in the U.S. as well as in El Salvador, that our countries' strong and productive relationship can only be based on shared values in justice and democracy and on concerted and sustained efforts to achieve these goals. We know that President Alvaro Magana of El Salvador shares these views, and we will remain in touch on developing enhanced efforts that will strengthen human rights ties.