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Remarks of President Reagan and Provisional President Alvaro Alfredo Magana Borja of El Salvador Following Their Meetings

June 17, 1983

President Reagan. President Magafia and I have had a cordial and a very useful exchange of views on the situation in El Salvador and in Central America. At this time, his government is deeply involved in preparations for Presidential elections and is attempting through the Peace Commission to encourage the participation in the electoral process of all Salvadorans, including the extreme left. This is the true path of peace for that country.

We discussed the military situation in El Salvador. President Magana also detailed his government's reform efforts, including the land reform program and the recently announced plan for judicial reform. He reaffirmed his government's commitment to human rights.

Regionally, our talks focused on the threat posed by Nicaragua to other countries in Central America. We reviewed the status of the Contadora initiative and the efforts of democratic countries in the region to find a peaceful solution.

President Magana is a courageous and talented leader. He's making admirable progress in the difficult task of moving El Salvador toward democracy while at the same time coordinating a defense against Marxist-led guerrillas who would turn his country into a Cuban-style dictatorship. President Magana, the Government of El Salvador, and the people of that brave country deserve and have our support. And it's a great pleasure to have you here.

President Magana. Thank you, Mr. President, for your encouraging words. We believe in democracy, liberty, and all the principles that have made this country great. We welcome your support, and we want a lasting peace through democracy. This is the summary of the remarks that I'm going to make.

[At this point, President Magana, whose opening remarks were delivered in English, began reading in Spanish from a text. As printed below, the remainder of this item follows the text as prepared by the Salvadoran Government and made available by the Office of the Press Secretary.]

Message of the Constitutional President of the Republic of El Salvador, Dr. Alvaro Magana, in the presence of the President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, on the occasion of the official visit of President Magana to Washington, D.C.

My visit to the United States of America is made in order to strengthen the ties that have historically united us with this country.

It is a propitious opportunity to present to the people of the United States of America a true picture of my country and of the goals we have set within the context of the difficult conditions which confront us. These goals sustain our conviction that President Reagan is giving his support to a legitimate government, and to the just cause of the Salvadoran people for maintaining and consolidating a democratic system in accordance with the tradition of liberty and human solidarity which have constituted the basis for the birth and the greatness of the United States of America.

The situation in El Salvador is part of a world situation of economic crisis and ideological conflict. However, our problems are not solely the result of external factors. For a long time, social and economic inequalities have been obstacles to the full development of democracy. They have provided the opportunity for extra-hemispheric interests, most particularly those of the Soviet Union and her satellites working through two Latin American countries to make us victims of their expansionistic policy.

Our government is the outcome of the electoral decision of the Salvadoran people, who on March 28, 1982, risked their lives in order to choose overwhelmingly and without doubt the democratic system as a preferred form of political organization. Consequently, my government is not the result of one or another ideological faction having prevailed: rather it is the clear and constitutional expression of the sovereign will of the people expressed in the most multitudinous free election known in our entire history.

With this legitimate mandate of the vast majority of Salvadorans the Government of National Unity was formed. On August 3, 1982, we adopted the basic platform, now known as the "Apaneca Pact". This pact includes the common objectives of the political parties expressed during the electoral campaign. These objectives included progress toward peace, democracy, full respect for human rights, consolidation of social reforms and economic recovery: all of which are being carried out in spite of the adverse circumstances, national and international, that we face.

In order to insure the accomplishment of these objectives put forth by the platform, a political commission was set up. This commission being composed of the Constitutional President of El Salvador, the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister and representatives of the political parties. The commission is assisted by other organizations which are responsible for each of the specific objectives.

Respect for human life and the physical integrity, along with the dignity of all Salvadorans is the responsibility of the Commission on Human Rights and the constant concern of my Government. I am pleased to say that in order to safeguard those human rights, we have adopted concrete and pragmatic measures, such as the granting of amnesty, accelerated consideration of cases involving political crimes, plans to reform legal procedures applicable to such crimes, cooperation with the International Red Cross, ministerial directives to the security forces to insure strict compliance to legal procedures, and other similar measures. One important step toward guaranteeing respect for human rights will be the judicial reform which is envisioned in the new constitution: independent judicial authority and an independent Attorney General, with sufficient authority and sufficient means to improve the administration of justice. Furthermore, the Attorney General will have the technical capability for the scientific investigation of crime.

The reduction in the gravity of conflicts resulting from the economic and social reforms has contributed to the strengthening of the democratic process which the Government of National Unity has committed itself to maintain and consolidate: well aware that they are important conditions for social stability, created in an atmosphere of confidence, and a determining factor in the exercise of democracy.

Convinced of the importance of the private sector to economic recovery, the Government of National Unity has sought to create a favorable climate for the growth of private enterprise. The private sector has joined the public sector in forming a committee charged with economic recovery in El Salvador. These efforts at recovery face difficult obstacles caused primarily by low prices paid for our basic exports, increased prices of imports, and the problems of the Central American Common Market. To these I must add violence and the destruction of the infrastructure. Nonetheless, based on the spirit of diligence and sacrifice of the Salvadoran people, the economic cooperation of the United States of America, and a financial discipline of austerity which has permitted us to maintain tolerable rates of inflation and reasonable currency stability, my government has succeeded in reverting the declining trend of the economy.

The peace program of the Government of National Unity rests fundamentally upon the electoral process and on behalf of this government I reaffirm that the solution to the problem of violence should be essentially democratic. Accordingly, elections with participation by all Salvadorans without distinction, constitute the only means to obtain a definitive and permanent peace in order to establish a pluralist system that insures democracy.

In view of the importance of the participation of all Salvadorans in the coming elections, in a spirit of good will and in order to create conditions favorable to this full participation, we have enacted a generous amnesty law. To date 500 political prisoners who were subject to the legal process, have been freed under this law.

In order to better achieve our objectives, the Peace Commission on May 31 of this year appealed to the political sector of the subversive elements for the establishing of a dialogue to determine conditions and guarantees for their participation in the next elections. This appeal has been repeated twice in recent days.

Just as the essence of democracy consists of the right of the citizens to elect their leaders and to confer political power on their representatives, negotiating away a portion of this political power would be a divestment and betrayal of the electorate. This my government would never commit.

Our program of peace is the genuine democratic alternative. In this way, peace will be the logical consequence of the democratic process which will be assured in the next electoral events. It will also result from respect for human rights, consolidation of the social reforms, and economic recovery. In summary, it will result from the combined efforts of all Salvadorans.

Foreign military intervention in domestic affairs constitutes the main obstacle to our efforts to attain peace. The interference of extra-continental Communist countries by way of Cuba and Nicaragua in support of armed groups against a legitimate constitutionally elected government, is a form of aggression which violates the essence of international law, specifically the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states.

Faced with this situation, our armed forces have the constitutional obligation to defend the nation's sovereignty and to repel, in legitimate self-defense, the armed subversion that has been imposed upon us from abroad.

This external aggression has destroyed villages, forcing hundreds of thousands of humble Salvadorans to abandon their homes. It has subjected our productive facilities, our crops, our bridges and roads, our communication and transportation systems and the infrastructure of all public services to systematic destruction.

To alleviate this situation, integral programs have been commended to the "Commission for the Reconstruction of Specific Areas", coordinated by the armed forces and tending to bring normalcy of activities to the inhabitants of areas affected by violence, with the reestablishing of public services and the reconstruction of the infrastructures.

No one can dispute a nation's right to defend itself against external aggression and against the destruction of the scarce assets which in a developing country are produced at great sacrifice. For this reason, we have the right to the understanding and solidarity of all free nations of the world. For these reasons we have the right to the understanding and solidarity from all other free nations; as we have had from our Central American brothers, those with whom we share democratic ideals, and for whom I wish to express our gratitude.

El Salvador has not responded to aggression with aggression, nor to intervention with intervention. Last year, with a peace loving spirit we proposed a regional dialogue to strengthen democratic institutions, to end the arms race and the arms traffic, and to improve commercial and economic relations. With the same spirit we accepted the initiative of the "Grupo Contadora", whose invitations we have always responded to positively.

With the future of democracy in our country in great peril, we do know how to appreciate and be grateful for the solidarity and sympathy that President Reagan has clearly expressed for our cause, both in public and in private, and has responded with concrete and significant action.

El Salvador fights not only for the survival of its own democratic system; we also defend western democracy. For this reason I want to appeal to the honorable members of the United States of America's Congress to support the efforts of President Reagan to aid El Salvador. This assistance strengthens the cause of democracy in the Central American region. A weak, vacillating commitment endangers peace and hemispheric security. For this reason the people of the United States must fully understand that we face a common threat.

Our aspirations have been incorporated into the draft of the political constitution that the Constituent Assembly of El Salvador will debate and vote upon in the next days. Therein will be established the constitutional guarantees for the great objectives of the Government of National Unity first embodied in the "Apaneca Pact," and will become a permanent reality.

Mr. President: El Salvador, my small country, is an example of a newborn democracy defending its blood the democratic system of the western world against a totalitarian Communist regime.

El Salvador reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the defense of peace, democracy and liberty with the understanding and solidarity of all free nations.

Thank you.

Note: President Reagan spoke at 1:19 p.m. to reporters assembled at the South Portico of the White House.

Earlier, the two Presidents met first in the Oval Office and then in the Cabinet Room, together with U.S. and Salvadoran officials. They then held a working luncheon in the State Dining Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks of President Reagan and Provisional President Alvaro Alfredo Magana Borja of El Salvador Following Their Meetings Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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