Radio Address to the Nation on the Central American Peace Proposal

April 20, 1985

In a few days, Congress will vote on whether or not to support our proposal to help restore peace and democracy in Nicaragua. Few votes will ever be so important to the survival of democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean. Few votes will ever be so important to the national security of the United States.

On March 1st, the leaders of the democratic resistance of Nicaragua, the so-called contras, sent a peace proposal to the Communists, who've taken over their country. The proposal called for a cease-fire and church-mediated negotiations that would lead to free and honest elections.

We've asked the democratic resistance to extend their offer until June 1st, and we're asking Congress to show its support for peace negotiations by releasing humanitarian aid to the democratic resistance. This support is crucial.

Negotiations would be our best and possibly last opportunity to steer the Sandinista Communists away from their present brutal course and back toward the democratic and peaceful promises of their revolution.

The responsibility now rests squarely on the shoulders of Congress. A vote for humanitarian aid to the democratic resistance will signal the United States' resolve on this issue. And courage and resolve are the only way to convince the Sandinista Communists to come to the negotiating table.

A vote against our proposal, however, could mean the beginning of the end to all hopes of peace and democracy in Central America. Already, the followers of Qadhafi and the Ayatollah Khomeini are in Nicaragua -- about 2 hours by air from United States borders. And just this week, we confirmed the presence of Russian military personnel in the battle zones of northern Nicaragua.

The Soviet terrorist-bloc nations know what is at stake in Nicaragua. That's why, in the 7 months since Congress cut off aid to the democratic resistance, they've been pouring in weapons and personnel to their Communist allies, hoping to wipe out the democratic forces while they're most vulnerable.

And that's why, rather than negotiate with the democratic resistance, the Communists are still betting that the United States will abandon its friends. A recent article in the New York Times reported that the ``Sandinistas pin hopes on Congress.'' You heard me right. The Sandinista Communists are lobbying your Senators and Representatives. Together with the misguided sympathizers in this country, they've been running a sophisticated disinformation campaign of lies and distortion.

And now we're told that in a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion and our Congress, the Communists may put forth an 11th hour so-called peace proposal, a proposal aimed at blocking aid to the democratic resistance and giving the Communists a free hand to tighten their grip on the Nicaraguan people. The Communists know that if they can persuade Congress to cut off aid, they'll never have to negotiate with the democratic opposition. And they believe if they can stop aid to the democratic resistance, nothing can stop them.

Unfortunately, some are using this issue to play partisan politics. Before we'd even announced our peace plan, the Speaker of the House called our peace offer a dirty trick. How could church-mediated peace negotiations be a dirty trick? Do they really think the church would ever cooperate in a trick?

The opponents of our plan in the House have announced a formula for turning the democratic resistance into homeless refugees. Their alternative to a plan for peace and democracy would only provide assistance to the democratic forces if they abandon their struggle to liberate Nicaragua -- in other words, surrender to communism. They would, in fact, aid the Soviet-Cuban-Sandinista effort to get rid of the democratic resistance.

We're asking Congress to be consistent and support those who are fighting communism in Nicaragua, just as we support the democratic resistance in Afghanistan and Cambodia.

Let me speak plainly. Any proposal that abandons over 15,000 members of a democratic resistance to Communists is not a compromise; it's a shameful surrender. If Congress ever approves such a proposal, it would hasten the consolidation of Nicaragua as a Communist-terrorist arsenal. And it would give a green light to Soviet-sponsored aggression throughout the American mainland, ultimately threatening our own security.

But Congress can prevent a crisis by supporting peace negotiations now. Don't let the Sandinista Communists and their sympathizers be the only voices heard. Let our Members of Congress and Senators hear the voices of you who love liberty and democracy, too. Let's give peace a chance in Nicaragua and in all of Central America.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.