IMPLEMENT ACCORD ON U.S. POLICY IN CENTRAL AMERICA -- HON. LEE H. HAMILTON (Extension of Remarks - April 13, 1989)
HON. LEE H. HAMILTON
in the House of Representatives
in the House of Representatives
THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 1989
- The House in Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 1750) Implementation of the Bipartisan Accord on Central American Act of 1989.
- Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 1750, a bill to implement the accord on U.S. policy in Central America agreed to by the President and the bipartisan congressional leadership on March 24.
- The bipartisan accord offers us the best possible opportunity in years to help end the war in Nicaragua and protect and promote our important security objectives in Central America.
- H.R. 1750 deserves our support for several reasons.
- First, the bipartisan accord represents a fundamental reorientation of U.S. strategy in Central America and provides a fresh start in our policies toward Nicaragua.
- Under the accord, the United States makes an unambiguous commitment to support the regional diplomatic process in Central America. This commitment to diplomacy marks a clear departure from previous unsuccessful military strategies.
- The United States will strive to do several things as part of this new strategy: We will actively support the efforts of the Central American Presidents, led by President Arias of Costa Rica, to implement the regional security and domestic reform provisions of the regional accords those Presidents have signed; we will use diplomatic incentives and disincentives to encourage the Sandinista government to comply with its obligations under the accords; and we will take steps to ensure that none of our nonlethal assistance to the Contras is used for offensive military action inside Nicaragua or is received by Contra personnel who violate human rights.
- To achieve this agreement on a new diplomatic strategy in Central America, both the President and the Congress have made several important commitments.
- The administration has acknowledged that securing U.S objections in Central America does not require the military overthrow of the Sandinistas; that the Contras' reintegration into Nicaraguan politics through elections can now be contemplated; that, as the President put it in March, the United States cannot `claim the right to order the politics of Nicaragua'; and that Congress plays an indispensable role in evaluating the goals and status of U.S. policy in Central America.
- For its part, Congress has stressed its support for the goals of `democracy, peace, and security' in Central America; declared its concern about the role played by Soviet and Cuban military assistance in Central America's conflicts; and acknowledged that it is the administration's responsibility to conduct U.S. diplomacy.
- The diplomatic strategy embodied in the bipartisan accord has received the endorsement of all the Central American Presidents, apart from Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, and from many other Latin American leaders. President Arias said last week that the bipartisan agreement was consistent with the February 1989 Central American summit agreement calling for democratic reforms in Nicaragua in exchange for the demobilization of the Contras.
- Second, the bipartisan agreement could end years of divisive debate on policy toward Nicaragua.
- These debates have diverted valuable energy and attention from problems that pose major threats to Latin American democracy and stability, including debt, drug trafficking, and insurgency. When we are able to speak with one voice on a concerted diplomatic strategy in Central America, we will be much more likely to bring an end to the region's conflicts.
- Furthermore, if this agreement launches an effective bipartisan policy, it could help restore much of the collaborative spirit and mutual trust that were casualties of the Contra debates and the Iran-Contra affair. This would strengthen our policies in other areas.
- Third, by providing nonlethal assistance to the Contras for another 11 months, we do not preclude the possibility that their demobilization might begin before next February. The status of the Contra forces during the next year will depend upon the course of regional diplomacy.
- The Central American Presidents expect to produce by May 15 a plan for the relocation of the Contras. In the event that the presidents decide to begin relocating the Contras before next February, this proposed legislation includes language authorizing the use of some of our assistance for the voluntary repatriation and regional integration of the Nicaraguan resistance.
- Fourth, Nicaraguan officials have indicated that continued U.S. economic assistance for the Contras will not affect their understanding of their own obligations under the regional accords. I believe that the continuing presence of the Contras can advance diplomacy by encouraging the Sandinistas to comply with their commitments.
- Mr. Chairman, members are well aware of the historic importance of this agreement our leaders have hammered out. Members are also aware that some questions remain and that other components of our policies in Central America remain unresolved: Some question how well Congress will be able to evaluate in November the quality of the administration's efforts on behalf of regional diplomacy or the Contras' compliance with the bipartisan agreement's understandings on offensive restraint and human rights; some think that the diplomatic incentives the administration proposes to offer, and the Sandinista actions that would call them into play, have not been clearly articulated; others argue that the conditions under which our humanitarian assistance will be converted into relocation assistance have also not been specified; and finally, many of us in Congress would like to see the United States commit itself to begin direct bilateral discussions with the Sandinistas on our mutual security concerns.
- These are all important considerations. Each of these should be pursued further during the coming weeks.
- But I submit that even though we all have some questions and we all have particular oversight concerns, we have a common interest in furthering this important bipartisan agreement and the collaborative framework it creates, within which we can address these outstanding policy concerns.
- I urge adoption of H.R. 1750.