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Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the President's Trip to Latin America

December 04, 1982

Q. You've been partying all night—from one cabin to another.

The President. No, I just brought a birthday cake, and then I brought a farewell cake for our military man who's leaving after 26 years, the man that handles all the baggage.

Q. You don't look tired.

Q. You don't look tired at all.

The President. You should've been used to that after the campaign. [Laughter] No, I'm not tired.

Q. Really enjoyed the trip?

The President. Yes, I think it was a real fruitful one.

Q. Do you think you accomplished anything?

The President. Yes. Yes, I do. I think we established very good relations there.

Q. Do you think that the six Presidents that you visited with got to know you a lot better at close distance, rather than long distance?

The President. Yes, even though I had met a couple of them before, when they had come up here. No, I think we really established some friendships—and mutual friendships. I feel very close to them, and I think they do to me.

Q. Do you think President Rios Montt's announcement on the elections is enough to justify resumption of military aid—

The President. What?

Q. Is President Rios Montt's announcement about—announcing the election laws in March of '83, setting in pattern the eventual election of a democratic government there. Is that enough to justify the resumption of military aid to Guatemala?

The President. Well, we've got a whole lot of material which he, very frankly, brought for us to study. I frankly think that they've been getting a bad deal. You know, he was elected President in 1974 and was never allowed to take office. So, when this particular coup came, the officers who conducted the coup came to him and put him into the office he'd been elected to.

But he is totally dedicated to democracy in Guatemala. And they have some very real problems that we, as I say, are going to—they brought and they made quite a presentation and brought a lot of information and material to us. And frankly I'm inclined to believe they've been getting a bum rap.

Q. Are you leaning toward resuming the aid—

The President. What?

Q. Are you leaning toward resuming the aid, based on what he told you in your talks?

The President. Well, this is going to depend, of course, on all this information that's been provided to us. But I would think so.

Q. Mr. President, do you think you sent a clear signal to Nicaragua, to the Sandinista government, by talking with all the Presidents around Nicaragua? And what would that signal be?

The President. Well, the main thing was that—we weren't particularly trying to aim a signal at them. we were trying to do what I said clear back in the campaign I wanted to do. And that is to get all these countries in the Americas, in this hemisphere, to recognize what a force for good in the world we could be if we did have an accord. And so, we will do more of this, and with others. We had to start someplace.

Q. Why did we fly around Nicaragua today, instead of just taking the shorter route over the country?

The President. Well, I don't know. I imagine, probably, because there was some concern about going into their airspace. I don't know; I haven't asked anyone. I looked at the map there in my own room. And it seemed to me that a fairly direct route did take us over water on the Pacific side, and then to turn in to land at Honduras. It didn't seem to me it was too much out of the way.

Q. Did you give Nofziger the go-ahead to start your reelection campaign?

The President. No. No; Lyn, I know, just felt that he would like to contact some of those who were involved the last time and just make sure that they were all still around.

Q. Are you unhappy about his comment about making it a Reagan-Bush campaign and not a Bush-Reagan campaign?

The President. Well, I think he could have—it turns out that he was talking. And it wasn't the best choice of words, because the truth of the matter is, he has assured me that he has complete faith in George and everyone else with regard to loyalty to me. So, he didn't mean that in any way to be a charge of disloyalty.

Q. Do you think he got a little overanxious?

The President. What?

Q. Do you think he got a little overanxious to get you reelected?

The President. I'm right in the position I always was: No decision has been made. [Laughter]

Q. I don't believe that. [Laughter]

The President. What?

Q. I don't believe that.

The President. Honestly; it's true.

Q. Really?

The President. This would be too early to make a decision now.

Q. You seem to be leaning, though.

The President. What?

Q. Are you leaning toward running again even though you haven't made a decision?

The President. Well, as I've said, the people'll tell you whether you do that or not.

Q. Mr. President, what does Nancy tell you?

The President. What?

Q. What does Nancy tell you? We hear—

The President. Well.

Q. —about all the time that—

The President. No, she's like me. She thinks that this isn't the time to make such a decision.

Q. But do you know it's 13 months till the Iowa caucus? [Laughter]

The President. Well.

Q. [Inaudible]

Q. You have to write a letter at some point saying you're a candidate.

Q. Mr. President, are you getting to like foreign travel a lot now? And might we see you taking some more foreign trips in the near future?

The President. What?

Q. I said, are you getting to like foreign travel a lot, now that you've taken this trip, plus the others you've taken? And might you take some others—[ inaudible]?

The President. It isn't based on whether you like or not. I've had an awful lot of travel in my life, and I could be very happy just staying home.

Q. Are you going to win the MX vote in the House next week?

The President. I don't know. That's going to be a tough one.

Q. What do you—

The President. I hope so.

Q. What do you have in mind to line up support? What will you be doing next week?

The President. Well, wait till I get back there and size up the situation and

Q. Will you be making a few phone calls? Bringing some people in maybe?

The President. It's possible. There, you got a Q-and-A session. [Laughter]

Reporters. Thank you very much.

Q. We could offer you a drink.

The President. Yes.

Q. A little champagne.

Q. If you like, sir, we can make room for you—to have his seat, if you like.

The President. No, no.

Q. I guess one more helicopter ride, right?

The President. Yes, from Andrews to the South Lawn.

Q. Did you have any favorite President of all those you met on this 5-day trip?

The President. Oh, I wouldn't answer that question. [Laughter]

Q. We want to fix this good—[inaudible].

The President. Well, I must say, I felt very good about all of them, and I thought that we established quite a relationship.

Q. How are you going to get your horse back?

Q. We thought we smelled an odor back there. [Laughter]

Q. Does he have to be in quarantine?

The President. I assume there's some rules about that, yeah.

Q. You're going to have so many horses, you're going to have to buy a new ranch. [Laughter]

The President. Well, this one is only on loan.

Q. On loan. Is he going to fly back or come back by train or—

The President. By train? [Laughter]

Q. South America?

The President. No, you'd be surprised how much of that kind of transportation there is now because of racing. They ship horses all around the world, from Europe over and back over to Europe and from South America—the tracks down there, up here. So, I suppose it's just a ease of finding out, you know, some time when there's a shipment going. It's a great horse. [Laughter]

Q. How about the Mexican horse? Are you able to ride him now, or is he still-[inaudible]?

The President. Oh, yes, that's the one I'm riding since Little Man left us.

Q. El Alamein.

The President. Yeah, he's a good ride. He really is.

Q. Now that he's broken in.

The President. Well, no, he was always all right when you were on him. He was most dangerous when he was on the ground. And I don't know whether that's a way they train them or something, so that, you know, they'll feel more macho when they get on or not. But, no, and even now, you know, I always feed him some carrots after a ride. And you have to be more careful with him than any other, or he'll eat you off to the elbow. [Laughter] Gets the carrot and starts on fingers.

Q. Well, you should have more carrot and less stick. [Laughter] [Inaudible]—foreign policy—[inaudible].

The President. More carrot and less what?

Q. Stick. [Laughter]

Q. More carrot and less stick.

Q. Has this trip changed your views any about Latin America and your policies? Do you see any perspectives differently after this trip?

The President. Well, I learned a lot, because that's what I went to do, is—I didn't go down there with any plan for the Americas or anything. I went down to find out from them and their views. And you'd be surprised, yes, because, you know, they're all individual countries. I think one of the greatest mistakes in the world that we've made has been in thinking, lumping—thinking "Latin America." You don't talk that way about Europe. You recognize the difference between various countries. And the same thing is true here.

So, I went down to say to them what my dream was about this accord and then say, "Now, how can we make it work?"

Q. Were they surprised at that attitude?

Did they think that was a change in attitude?

The President. I think so. No one actually specifically said it, but I think they did.

Q. In Colombia, where things may have been a little shakier than other places, was there a surprised President there in that approach?

The President. I think we established a very close friendship there, in spite of the toast.

Q. You know, the protester sat and listened to the whole speech.

The President. The what?

Q. The protester today.

The President. Oh?

Q. It seems like a long day, but this morning, the protester, he was sitting through the whole speech.

The President. Oh, he did.

Q. He sat down and listened.

Q. I mean, he stayed in the—[inaudible]. And you know that when the guard sort of moved toward him, all the people waved him away.

The President. Well, it's—

Q. It was real evidence of democracy.

The President. Yeah, yeah.

Q. Mr. President, is your dream likely to take any more tangible form now that you've talked about it with these heads of state? Is there anything that you've got in mind about furthering that idea?

The President. Well, I think it's a thing that has to grow and develop through the Organization of American States, through getting more bilateral actions. I just—I think we've—it's been a very worthwhile trip.

Q. Mr. President, what sort of message were you trying to send to Nicaragua with the—particularly the latter part of your trip and they were the one Central American country you did not visit and you did not talk with leaders? Is there some message that you were trying to send to them with this trip?

The President. No, not really. No, this is-and, as you know, we've tried to communicate with Nicaragua, tried to convince them there could be another way to go.

Q. You know—just one last question—the New York Times said that you have heard from the new Soviet President and he is interested in these, you know, working out something, negotiations on the things you proposed on the expanded hot line, et cetera. Is that true?

The President. Well, you know, the idea that has been kind of indicated is that we didn't have any communications. We've been in constant communication with the Soviet Union, and, yes, we haven't had time to deal with that. But I understand that his reply has come, expressing an interest in those things that

Q. Then they are receptive then?

The President. Yeah.

Q. Thank you.

The President. And I know how you really want to be accurate. It was a bridged loan, not a "breached loan." [Laughter]

Note: The question-and-answer session was held on board Air Force One as the President was returning to Washington, D.C., from San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Ronald Reagan, Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on the President's Trip to Latin America Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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