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Remarks Following a Visit With Former President Jose Napoleon Duarte Fuentes of El Salvador

November 02, 1989

The President. Well, I am very pleased to be out here with the Vice President and others today to pay tribute to a great friend of the United States and a tireless fighter for democracy, Jose Napoleon Duarte. President Duarte's life has been dedicated to advancing freedom and justice, and he is indeed the father of El Salvador's democracy. He is an inspiration to all of us. And to honor this courageous man today, the Duarte Scholarship has been established at the University of Notre Dame, his own alma mater. And Father Ted Hesburgh presided at this meeting and presented him with this chair, if you will, this scholarship. This legacy will give the priceless gift of education to deserving Salvadoran students, students who I know will take great pride in this wonderful gift and the man after whom it is named.

El Salvador's Government, today under President Cristiani, continues in the democratic path despite violent opposition from extremists from both the left and the right. And let me say how strongly we condemn the recent bloody attacks in San Salvador. Under relentless guerrilla assaults, El Salvador has conducted six free and certifiably fair elections since 1982 under international supervision. And what we are witnessing in Nicaragua today stands in strong contrast to the Salvadoran record.

The decision of the Sandinista government to end the cease-fire is an assault on the electoral process in Nicaragua, which the entire hemisphere has condemned their actions. And despite Sandinista denials, it is hard not to believe that the government of Nicaragua is taking this action to give itself an excuse to close down the limited political space that it has allowed thus far. Nicaragua has taken only partial steps to establish conditions for a completely free and fair election. It shows fear of establishing that level playing field that the rest of the world is looking for. It is hypocritical for the Sandinistas to assert that they want the resistance to return voluntarily while it's setting its vast armed forces to attack them. Moreover, they have consistently violated the cease-fire since it was proclaimed.

I would add that despite Nicaragua's Esquipulas commitments, we have recently had new evidence of Sandinista arms shipments to the Salvadoran guerrillas. In our recent meeting in Costa Rica, the Nicaraguans were taken to task by President Cristiani of El Salvador for the illegal shipments that contradict the agreements to which they are a party.

The Sandinista regime says that it is committed to the Esquipulas process. If that truly is, it will respect the cease-fire and begin a dialog with the resistance. It will work with the internal opposition to create the conditions for a truly free election. And it will stop its armed subversion of its neighbors.

It is not clear how far Ortega [President Daniel Ortega Saavedra of Nicaragua] intends to take his military and intimidation campaign. Accordingly, we must and we will keep our options open. The United States supports peace and democracy in Central America. We want to see the cease-fire in Nicaragua respected by all sides. We want a free and fair election, and that is clearly also the wish of the Nicaraguan people and leaders from every part of the hemisphere.

So, I appreciate having a chance to express my thoughts on both this tribute to President Duarte and the aspirations of the United States for democracy all across our hemisphere.


Q. If El Salvador can conduct free elections in conditions of civil war, why can't Nicaragua?

The President. Because the Esquipulas agreements say that they should not -- that there should be democratic and free conditions, and that the Sandinistas should be negotiating with the resistance. That's what these agreements call for, and they are being violated by the Sandinistas. And if we ever saw the whole hemisphere turn on one man, it was when these democratic Presidents got repulsed by what Mr. Ortega said in San Jose.

Q. Mr. President, how much closer are you to seeking or thinking about military aid? Tuesday afternoon you said -- --

The President. My statement speaks for itself. All options are open.

Note: The President spoke at 4:48 p.m. at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Rev. Theodore Hesburgh was president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame.

George Bush, Remarks Following a Visit With Former President Jose Napoleon Duarte Fuentes of El Salvador Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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