January 19, 1988

President Reagan believes that the outcome of the January 15 summit meeting of the Central American Presidents presents important opportunities to further peace and democracy in this troubled region. At the San Jose summit, there was a clear consensus among the four Central American democratic Presidents that the Sandinistas had not complied with the peace accord. By making his last-minute promises, President Ortega implicitly acknowledged the accuracy of that judgment.

The Guatemala City plan aims at peace and democracy for all of Central America. Its objectives, in combination with the pressures from the Central American democracies and the Nicaraguan democratic resistance, have prompted the Sandinistas to reluctantly promise to diminish their tight control over the Nicaraguan political system and to provide a glimmer of hope to the Nicaraguan people that democracy and freedom may eventually be established.

The key issue is whether Daniel Ortega is really committed to genuine democracy or just seeks the elimination of the Nicaraguan democratic resistance. The Sandinistas' track record is clear and must be considered in evaluating the latest Sandinista offer. There is a need for openmindedness and hope, along with skepticism. We welcome the new promises but note that while Daniel Ortega was in Costa Rica making them his government was arresting prominent democratic leaders inside Nicaragua.

The focus is where it belongs: on the Sandinistas -- their promises and their actions. The President believes that continued support for the Nicaraguan democratic resistance will keep the pressure on the Sandinistas to move forward with genuine and enduring democratic reforms. The Nicaraguan democratic resistance is the best insurance policy for keeping the peace process on track and producing a democratic outcome in Nicaragua. This is not the time to falter in our support for the freedom fighters.