Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the President's Meeting With Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance Leaders

June 18, 1986

The President met this morning with the leaders of the United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO) -- Alfonso Robelo, Arturo Cruz, and Adolpho Calero. They discussed with him the serious threat to the resistance forces now that the United States has cut off all assistance. The three leaders of the democratic resistance told the President that Nicaraguan freedom fighters have never been more committed to their struggle and will fight on, whatever the odds. They promised to fight alone, if necessary, against the largest army in Central America -- an army supplied with the most deadly Soviet weaponry and trained and led by Cuban mercenaries.

The resistance leaders pledged their efforts to keep Congress and the American people aware of the urgency of this situation. They expressed their concern over the Sandinista tactics of stalling in regional negotiations while using the delay to attempt to stamp out both the resistance and the internal opposition. The resistance leaders pointed out that the Soviets are stepping up their weapons shipments and direct assistance to the Sandinistas in the hope that they can destroy the freedom fighters before help arrives. The President pledged that we cannot let that happen and noted that the world is watching us to see if the United States is only a fair-weather friend of freedom, unwilling to help those fighting and dying for the very same principles and beliefs on which our nation was founded.

The UNO leaders briefed the President on the recent steps they have taken to broaden their democratic base, refine their political program, and ensure that their movement remains representative of the Nicaraguan people. The President congratulated the UNO leaders on these steps. He praised the Nicaraguan leaders for their clear and firm commitment to the goal of establishing democratic government in their country.

The President stressed that aid to the democratic resistance should not be a partisan matter, that the support of freedom and opposition to Soviet expansionism on the American mainland is an issue on which both parties should be united. He recalled how a quarter of a century ago President Kennedy stood upon the east steps of the Capitol Building and pledged to ``support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.''