To the Congress of the United States:
On February 4th a devastating earthquake struck Guatemala. That quake, together with its aftershocks, has left over 22,000 dead, more than injured, and one million homeless.
The United States has a special responsibility to help meet the urgent needs in Guatemala. Immediate aid has already been extended by U.S. agencies, both public and private, including:
• Emergency shelters, medical supplies and food provided by the Agency for International Development.
• Transportation and medical facilities provided by the Department of Defense.
• Food distribution, medical services, and other disaster relief activities provided by numerous private voluntary agencies.
Last week I dispatched my Special Coordinator for International Disaster Assistance--AID Administrator Daniel Parker--to Guatemala for a firsthand review of the situation.1 He has now reported to me and to Congressional Committees on the extent of damage and need. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed resolutions expressing sympathy for the people of Guatemala in their hour of distress and urging development of a comprehensive U.S. response. The Secretary of State will visit the Republic of Guatemala on February 24 to express further our support for the people of Guatemala.
1 See Item 103.
I am now proposing urgent and specific action to turn these expressions of sympathy into tangible assistance. The proposed $25 million "Guatemala Disaster Relief Act of 1976" which I am sending herewith represents an immediate humanitarian response of the United States to the victims of this tragedy who have been injured or have lost their relatives, their homes and possessions, and in many cases their very means of existence.
This legislation, and the ensuing appropriation, will enable us to respond to the human tragedy in Guatemala. Our response will reflect America's concern for the people of Guatemala.
GERALD R. FORD
The White House,
February 19, 1976.