March 13, 1986

Vice President Bush, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, Assistant Secretary Abrams, and you three gentlemen, thank you for this eye-opening presentation. Thomas Jefferson understood that if the people know all the facts, the people will never make a mistake. Well, it's frustrating at times that information like what we have just heard today does not seem to be percolating through to the public. Even some well-intentioned elected officials seem to be operating under outrageously false assumptions.

These captured weapons, the vivid description of subversive activity, and the portrayal of repression that was provided here -- all of these are proof of Sandinista crimes against their neighbors and against the people of Nicaragua. These weapons and the testimony that we've seen and heard demonstrate the magnitude of a sophisticated Communist effort to undermine democracy in this hemisphere and to deceive us in the process. These rifles, landmines, grenade launchers, and other weapons did not just miraculously appear in the hands of Communists in El Salvador or the M - 19 terrorists in Colombia. They were placed in the hands of those who would eliminate liberty, wreak economic havoc, and destroy democracy by forces opposed to our very way of life.

The regime which has built -- now, I was going to say 9, but now I've been corrected, it is 10 -- new prisons in Nicaragua and runs drugs to poison our children is backed by an extraordinary support network of international Communists. One doesn't need to be of a particular party or even privy to secret information to see what's happening in Central America. It's clear: Nicaraguan Communists are using their country as a staging area for aggression against their neighbors, while totally subjugating their own people. Their campaign of internal repression and external aggression is being aided and abetted by the Soviet Union, Cuba, East Germany, Bulgaria, Iran, Vietnam, Libya, and other radical states, movements, and organizations.

The fledgling democracies of Central America cannot be expected to stand alone against this kind of concerted, international Communist effort. And let's make no mistake -- this nation, too, is threatened. If we do not act now to counter this subversive aggression by helping the brave men and women of the Nicaraguan democratic resistance, Americans will, in the not too distant future, look to the south and see a string of anti-American Communist dictatorships. And if that happens, it'll do no good to ask who's to blame. It will be an irreparable disaster. And that's why I'm asking the Congress to set aside partisan politics and act now to protect our national security by helping those who want a democratic outcome in Nicaragua.

America needs to hear the testimony of individuals like the ones we have with us today -- men who were on the inside on the other side. Senor Romero was a former rebel commandante in El Salvador. He offers firsthand knowledge of the vicious crime the Communist regime in Managua is perpetrating on the people of El Salvador. Alvaro Baldizon, a former member of Nicaragua's state security forces, was sickened and disillusioned by the brutality, repression, and the shroud of lies in which the Communists draped themselves. And Senor Archibald who was tortured and jailed -- these three are only a few of the many who deserve to be heard by decisionmakers. I would hope that all Members of Congress who have not had a chance to hear their message or have not seen this display will take the time to do so. And the display will be on Capitol Hill next week.

What we heard from these brave men also confirms that the Communists have surrounded their aggression and internal repression with a well-managed campaign of lies, distortion, and -- just as we've been told here -- disinformation. The masters of deceit have outdone themselves, but Americans can and will see through this smokescreen. The Communist goal is to paralyze us, to prevent us from doing what is necessary to save Central America; but they will not succeed. Ultimately, in a free society the truth will be heard. And today I think we've got before us some facts that the American people need very much to hear. And I hope that all of you will make it a point to spread the word. The stakes are too high to sit this one out.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:53 p.m. in the Diplomatic Lobby at the State Department. The Vice President, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Elliott Abrams also viewed the exhibit. In his opening remarks, the President also greeted three Central American freedom fighters.