March 3, 1988
Today the House of Representatives will once again address the issue of continued assistance to Nicaragua's Freedom Fighters, a matter of great national security concern.
The case for such support is compelling. If we do not sustain the Nicaraguan Resistance, we face the prospect of a consolidated Marxist-Leninist regime on the American mainland and prolonged troubles for Nicaragua's democratic neighbors. If, on the other hand, meaningful assistance is provided, we can enhance the prospects for democracy inside Nicaragua and advance the cause of regional peace in accordance with the Guatemala Accords of August 1987.
It is, of course, not only the mere fact of continued assistance to the Freedom Fighters which is important. The quantity, nature and means of delivery of such help are also vital factors. I have said in the past and continue to maintain that our aid must be sufficient to sustain the Resistance in the field, provide equipment indispensable to those purposes and include effective means for transporting approved materials into Nicaragua under extraordinarily hazardous conditions.
This brings me to the question of the alternative assistance packages which the House will consider today. It is my considered judgment that the aid package offered by the Democratic Leadership does not meet the essential criteria I have outlined above. Their proposal will not enable us to sustain the Freedom Fighters inside Nicaragua at anywhere approximating their present numbers. The proposal would alter the delivery arrangements to DOD responsibility, a notion which I am not prepared to accept. And, finally, the Democratic Leadership's proposal would not assure a future vote on further assistance should the peace process fail to produce the results we all hope for. Without such provision it is quite obvious that all the Sandinistas have to do is play a waiting game instead of bargaining seriously with their internal opponents and democratic neighbors.
In contrast, the alternative put forward by the House Republican Leadership meets the minimum criteria I have outlined. Program responsibility would remain in the tried and tested hands of experienced professionals who have amply satisfied their oversight committees with their competence and thorough accountability. And, of course, the Republican alternative provides for expedited procedures in case of eventual need, an element which I consider indispensable to any package which ultimately emerges from the Congress.
Today could represent a watershed in our policies toward Central America. One avenue will lead to rapid debilitation of the Resistance and further encouragement of Sandinista intransigence. The other could keep alive prospects for democracy and meaningful talks toward peace. For the reasons set forth, I strongly urge you and your colleagues to vote against the proposal of the Democratic Leadership and in favor of the Republican package.
Note: Identical letters were sent to Robert H. Michel, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, and Representative Charles W. Stenholm of Texas.