Radio Address to the
Nation on Aid to the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance
January 30, 1988
of the great stories of this decade, a story that goes too often unremarked, involves the movement toward democracy in this,
our own Western
Less than 50 percent of the people of Latin America lived in democracies
when our administration took office. Today that percentage is more than 90. In
the words of President Sarney of Brazil: ``Latin America's extraordinary effort
to create a democratic order is the most stunning and moving political fact of
in the face of this broad and sweeping movement toward human freedom, one
country has gone in the opposite direction, away from freedom and toward
oppression. That country is Nicaragua. Since the Communist
Sandinista regime of Nicaragua took power in 1979, its
political opposition has been subjected to constant harassment. Freedom of the
press was replaced by state censorship. Communist control of the economy has produced
hyperinflation and a standard of living that is now nothing short of desperate.
Perhaps the most telling fact of all is this: Some 250,000 Nicaraguans, over 10
percent of the entire population, have fled the country.
would be one thing if Nicaragua, bad as it is, were
self-contained. Yet the actual case is much worse. For the Communist regime has
placed Nicaragua within the Soviet
orbit, embarked upon a massive military buildup, and already begun to send arms
and guerrillas into neighboring countries. First, El Salvador, then Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica -- the Communist
Sandinistas have sought to extend violence throughout all of Central America. It could be only a
matter of time before serious unrest and instability reached Mexico. Were
that to happen, the decade of the nineties could open with hundreds of
thousands of refugees streaming toward our own southern borders.
people in Central
have themselves moved to prevent this threat from becoming a reality. First
among these are the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. These brave men and women have
given up ordinary life to endure the hardship of living in the countryside --
virtually always on the move -- to fight for freedom in their own country.
There was a time when the freedom fighters, with few supplies, little medical
support, and dwindling ammunition, were forced to retreat. But in recent
months, in large measure because we in the United States have stood with them,
the freedom fighters have begun to win major victories, placing intense
pressure upon the Communist Sandinista regime to reform.
Communist Nicaragua, the democratic leaders of neighboring Central American
countries have worked together to develop a peace plan for the region. Among
its provisions, the peace plan calls for all the countries of Central America, including Nicaragua, to respect civil
liberties, including freedom of the press and freedom to hold elections.
Communist regime in Nicaragua -- which, as I've said,
is under intense pressure from the freedom fighters -- has agreed to
participate in the regional peace process. So far, the measures the Communists
have taken have been extremely limited -- the release of a small number of
political prisoners, for example, and the lifting of censorship in a very few
cases. Yet there is hope that, with the freedom fighters keeping up the
pressure, the Communists will observe still further provisions of the peace
plan, permitting Nicaragua at least to inch toward
the conditions of genuine democracy.
United States has made every effort
to promote a negotiated solution. Since 1981 we have met with the Sandinistas
ourselves -- bilaterally, multilaterally, and in other diplomatic settings.
Four special United States envoys have traveled to
the region on at least 40 occasions. Yet it remains vital for us to help the
freedom fighters keep the Communist Sandinistas under pressure.
week Congress will vote on my request for additional aid for the Nicaraguan
resistance. Ninety percent of the $36 million package is for nonlethal support, such as food, clothing, medicine, and
the means to deliver those items. Only $3.6 million is for ammunition, and its
delivery would be suspended for at least a month to determine whether progress
is being made toward a cease-fire. I'm hopeful that will occur, and the
ammunition will not be required.
if the Sandinistas fail to move forward on the path of peace and democracy,
then I will certify to Congress that these supplies must be released. I will
make that decision only after the most careful and thorough consultation with
Congress and the four Central American democratic Presidents. Those brave
freedom fighters cannot be left unarmed against Communist tyranny.
next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President
spoke at from the Oval Office at
the White House.