George Bush photo

Statement on the Bipartisan Accord on Central America

March 24, 1989

The President of a Central American democracy was asked recently what is the most important step the United States can take. He said: "Speak with one voice." Today, for the first time in many years, the President and Congress, the Democratic and Republican leadership in the House and Senate, are speaking with one voice about Central America.

In my Inaugural Address I reached out my hand to the leadership of Congress in both parties asking them to join with me to rebuild a bipartisan foreign policy based on trust and common purpose. Today I am gratified that the Speaker and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House have extended their hands back to me.

We have signed today together a bipartisan accord on Central America. It sets out the broad outlines of U.S. policy towards that troubled region and commits both the Executive and Congress to work together to achieve it.

The goals we seek are the goals which the people of Central America yearn for: democracy, security, and peace. Those are the pledges made by the Central American Presidents in the Esquipulas II accord. That agreement is an integrated whole: All of its provisions must move forward together if any of them are to be fulfilled. Our challenge now is to turn those promises into concrete realities on the ground.

The only way we can meet that challenge is if Latin democratic leaders and the United States work together, with the support of our European friends and allies, as true partners with candor and mutual respect. I believe Latin leaders are asking for that kind of relationship as we confront together the many challenges facing our hemisphere. As President, I pledge the United States is ready to respond.

Under this Central America agreement, insurgent forces have the right to reintegrate into their homeland under safe, democratic conditions with full civil and political rights. That is the desire of the Nicaraguan resistance. It is what they are fighting for. We hope and believe it can be achieved through a concerted diplomatic effort to enforce this regional agreement. To achieve these goals, the bipartisan leadership of Congress has agreed to support my request for continued humanitarian assistance to the Nicaraguan resistance through the elections scheduled in Nicaragua for February 28, 1990.

There will be extensive consultations and review with respect to these funds effective November 30, 1989 by the bipartisan leadership and relevant committees. However, I have been assured that the leadership in both Houses supports the extension of this assistance through the Nicaraguan elections, barring unforeseen circumstances.

There is no shortcut to democracy, no quick fix. The next weeks and months will demand patience and perseverance by the democratic community and the hard, technical work of ensuring compliance with the Esquipulas accord. The United States will work in good faith to support that kind of diplomatic effort, but we will not support a paper agreement that sells out the Nicaraguan people's right to be free.

We do not claim the right to order the politics of that country; that is for the people of Nicaragua to decide. We support what the Esquipulas accord requires: free, open political processes in which all groups can fairly and safely compete for political leadership. That means the playing field must be level; all, including the current government, must respect the majority's decision in the end; and the losers must also retain the political rights to operate as a legal opposition and contest again for political authority in the next recurring election contest.

The burden of proof is on the Sandinista government to do something it has steadfastly refused to do from 1979 to 1989: to keep its promises to the Nicaraguan people to permit real democracy, keep its promises to its neighbors not to support subversion in Central America, and keep its obligation to this hemisphere not to permit the establishment of Soviet-bloc bases in Central America. If those promises are kept, we have an opportunity to start a new day in Central America; but if those pledges continue to be violated, we hope and expect that other nations will find ways to join us to condemn those actions and reverse those processes.

The Soviet Union also has an obligation and an opportunity: to demonstrate that its proclaimed commitment to "new thinking" is more than a tactical response to temporary setbacks, but represents instead a new principled approach to foreign policy. In other regional conflicts around the world, the Soviet Union has adopted a welcome new approach that has helped resolve longstanding problems in constructive ways. In Central America, what we have seen from the Soviet Union and Cuba can only be described as "old thinking."

In the last decade, the Soviet bloc has poured at least $50 billion in aid into Cuba and Nicaragua. Soviet and Cuban aid is building in Nicaragua a military machine larger than all the armies of the other Central American nations combined and continues to finance violence, revolution, and destruction against the democratically elected government of El Salvador. Indeed, Soviet-bloc military support for the Marxist guerrillas has increased since the United States ended military support for the Nicaraguan resistance, and Soviet military aid to the Government of Nicaragua continues at levels wholly uncalled for by any legitimate defensive needs. The continuation of these levels of Soviet-bloc aid into Central America raises serious questions about Soviet attitudes and intentions towards the United States.

The Soviet Union has no legitimate security interest in Central America, and the United States has many. We reject any doctrine of equivalence of interest in this region as a basis for negotiations. Instead, the Soviet Union and Cuba have an obligation to the leaders of Central America to stop violating the provisions of the Esquipulas accord, which the Soviet Union and Cuba both pledged to uphold. The time to begin is now.

In signing the Esquipulas accord, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica said: "Without democracy, there can be no peace in Central America." He is right. But with democracy and peace in Central America can come new hope for economic development in which all of the people of the region can share. One can look at the terrible violence ravaging Central America and despair, but I have a different vision of its future. I can see a democratic Central America in which all of the Nations of the region live in peace with each other; where the citizens of the region are safe from the violence of the state or from revolutionary guerrillas; where resources now devoted to military defense could be channeled to build hospitals, homes, and schools. That is not a dream if all the people and nations of the Americas will it to be true. I hope the Esquipulas accord and perhaps, also, the bipartisan accord will someday be seen as the first step toward its fulfillment.

George Bush, Statement on the Bipartisan Accord on Central America Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under


Simple Search of Our Archives