Remarks to Media
Executives at a White House Briefing on
The President. A short time ago I was down in the press room, and I attempted a joke in response to a question, and I think -- I was kidding, but I don't think I should have said what I said. But for some of those who were present in that room, I think I should tell them that I do believe the medical history of a President is something that people have a right to know. And I speak from personal experience.
Q. Do you base your remark on any knowledge?
The President. No. I was just trying to be funny, and it didn't work.
Q. Now we all want to know what you said. [Laughter]
The President. I won't repeat it again in front of them.
think that I will say I thank you all for coming, and I want to welcome you
here today and begin by speaking briefly about
for regional security, freedom is the bottom line. By guaranteeing freedom for
the Nicaraguan people, we will also guarantee peace and stability for the rest
know you've closely followed the state of press freedom in
Three weeks ago, after a massive demonstration was brutally put down by the regime, La Prensa's headline told the story: ``Sandinista Police Beat the People With Rifle Butts.'' For that, the newspaper was shut down for 15 days. The church-run Radio Catolica was closed the same day and has still not reopened, and two independent radio news programs have since been suspended.
Just 2 months after taking power, the Sandinista leadership, in a message meant only for the party faithful, wrote that ``We are an organization whose greatest aspiration is to maintain revolutionary power.'' A free press threatens that, and they will not tolerate one.
much of the discussion of Nicaraguan press freedom has narrowly focused on La Prensa and Radio Catolica because
not much else has survived. Two other daily newspapers were seized early on, as
were all television stations and most radio stations; and the Sandinistas have
refused to give new radio or TV licenses. In
the original Sandinista commitments to the OAS [Organization of American
States], their obligations under the
The Sandinistas' real face is not hard to find. A few years ago, the chief of censorship at the Interior Ministry explained the censoring of La Prensa with a comment that would have made George Orwell blush. She said, and I quote: ``They accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie, and we could not let them publish it.''
since the signing of the Guatemala accord a year ago, the Sandinistas have
confiscated film from television crews, organized mob attacks on journalists,
electronically commandeered radio stations to block news broadcasts, denied
newsprint to La Prensa, and prevented the newspaper
from getting paper elsewhere. Radio news programs, the chief source of news in
And there have been constant threats and acts of intimidation. What greater proof can there be of how these dictators fear a free press than that Sandinista state television has been broadcasting vicious personal attacks on the publisher of La Prensa because they fear her ability to tell the truth. Or when Interior Minister Tomas Borge summoned the director of a radio station to his office and personally beat the man bloody because the station had reported police attacks on members of a labor union who were on a hunger strike. And in a police state, when the head of the secret police beats you, you can't hit back.
So, let's be clear: The Sandinistas never could have taken power in 1979 had they not pledged themselves to genuine freedom and democracy and, on that basis, received the assistance of the Carter administration in gaining power -- and then over $100 million in U.S. aid approved by vote of Congress. The Sandinistas could never have held power, as they have, had they not continually taken new vows about their democratic intentions. When are the people in Congress who've been lied to by the Sandinistas for 9 years going to get angry about it? When are the people in Nicaragua going to get the democracy that they fought for and that the Organization of American States set as the necessary condition for the government that it helped bring into being?
I call upon the U.S. Congress to keep faith with itself. Last December, by a
remarkable 6-to-1 margin, the House of Representatives passed the Byron-Tallon-Chandler amendment that enumerated 33 specific items
the Sandinistas would have to honor to comply with the
A new chapter in this issue has now begun because we've reached a point where the true nature and intentions of the Sandinista regime are exposed and beyond dispute. From the crushing of press freedom to the expansionist military plans revealed by Major Roger Miranda, we know who the Sandinistas are and the threat they pose in the region. And I hope that with this knowledge, a new consensus can be reached on our policy.
And now I think the press has heard enough; they want to leave.
Q. Are you backing the $47 million aid package which was approved? Are you backing a military aid package for the contras?
The President. Yes, I am, as always.
Q. How much?
The President. I don't know the exact amounts that are being talked about, but we could begin with $18 million worth of military supplies that are in warehouses -- once passed by the Congress, and now they're prohibited from releasing the material to the contras.
Note: The President spoke at in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to a reporter's question concerning Michael S. Dukakis' medical records.