Informal Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting Between President Reagan and President Roberto Suazo Cordova of Honduras

May 21, 1985

Q. I hear you've been pounding the table on Nicaraguan aid.

President Reagan. Oh, just kind of slapped it. [Laughter]

Q. They think you mean business.

President Reagan. Then I'm happy.

Q. President Suazo, are you prepared to lift restrictions on the contras if Congress approves new aid to them?

President Suazo. What kind of restrictions?

Q. Well, forcing them to go beyond the borders into Nicaragua, not allowing them to operate out of Honduras.

President Suazo. The Congress is the one that has to decide what it wants to do. It's their business.

What the American Congress and the American people should remember is that 24 hours after this request by President Ronald Reagan was rejected by the Congress, President Daniel Ortega was in Moscow saying hello to Chairman Gorbachev of the Soviet Communist Party.

I think that everybody recognizes that this vote in the Congress of the United States in which they rejected the request of President Reagan for humanitarian assistance for the contras was a victory for President Daniel Ortega and for the Communist Party, and I think that it's not my business, but the Congress of the United States decides -- the thing was lost by two votes and I can't interfere in domestic American politics. But, although I'm not an American, I think that you should feel proud in the United States that the United States has recovered its leadership position in the world under a great leader named Ronald Reagan.

And so, we in Central America are fighting for the establishment of democratic regimes that represent the will of the people freely expressed. We're fighting for liberty; we're fighting for justice. We strongly support the Contadora process; their meetings continue.

The five Central American countries that participate in that process -- the one that places the most obstacles in the path of a peaceful solution within a global framework for the entire region is precisely the regime in Nicaragua.

I've told journalists that have visited Honduras that they should try going to Cuba, Afghanistan, and Moscow and speak as freely as they do in the United States and in Honduras and see what would happen under these Communist governments. They'd wind up in jail or who knows what.

Q. President Reagan, are you encouraged by what you heard from your GOP leadership today about the chances for new aid?

President Reagan. I've been encouraged by what I've just been hearing here. [Laughter]

Q. You didn't put him up to it, did you?

President Reagan. We just met a few seconds before you came in here. We haven't seen each other.

President Suazo. I'd like to remind you that the shield of Honduras says, ``A free, sovereign, and independent . . . .'' What I've said represents my beliefs. I believe that President Reagan has recovered the position of leadership that the United States had been losing. And all of us who believe in democracy have regained our faith and our trust in this leadership; our faith and trust have been reborn.

I think he's a man who makes vigorous decisions, and I think the American people should think about this and pray to the Lord God Almighty that He illuminate the President in the decisions that he makes.

But I have not been coached. I haven't been put up to this. [Laughter] I came here accepting the very kind invitation issued to me by President Reagan.

And furthermore, President Reagan is not an executioner. He is not a dictator by any matter of means. And he's always been a strong believer in democracy, and he never has imposed any kind of restrictions on a free, sovereign and independent country like Honduras.

Q. Thank you very much.

Q. Are you content to have the contras stay in Honduras then?

President Suazo. No more.

Q. Thank you.

Note: The exchange began at 11:30 in the Oval Office at the White House. President Suazo spoke in Spanish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.