Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on United States Aid to El Salvador

April 13, 1984

On February 17 of this year, the President submitted a plan to the Congress based on the work of the Bipartisan Commission on Central America -- the ``Scoop Jackson plan'' -- to advance democracy, peace, and development in Central America. It included a request for $178 million in supplemental military aid for El Salvador in FY 1984.

Early last month, the President asked that about half of that money ($93 million) be appropriated immediately to meet urgent security requirements until the Congress could act on the whole plan in the summer.

Two weeks ago, to help get things moving, the President authorized reducing our request to $62 million. This lower sum would have met only minimal medical, supply, and ammunition requirements. Our proposal passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the two Houses were unable to meet and complete action before leaving for the 2-week Easter recess.

Meanwhile, in El Salvador a tragic irony is at hand. At the very moment when the people have turned out in massive numbers to register dramatically their hopes and beliefs in democracy, their armed forces are running out of means to defend against Marxist violence. We must not let that happen.

For the past 10 days, officials from State, Defense, and the White House have worked with bipartisan leaders of both Houses to secure the necessary funding. We would have preferred that the Congress complete its processes before the congressional recess. Congress will, of course, have that opportunity upon its return. In the interim, in order to prevent unnecessary loss of life and to assure security required for the run-off election, the President is today exercising authorities provided in law to deliver the essential materials to El Salvador.

We look forward to continuing discussions with the Congress on this matter when the Congress returns.