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Public Papers - 1989 - March

The President's News Conference

1989-03-24

The President. Well, let me first welcome the congressional leadership -- Speaker, majority leader, and Senator Dole, Senator Michel, Congressman Foley -- to the White House.

In my Inaugural Address, I advocated a bipartisan foreign policy; and today we, the Executive and the Congress, Republicans and Democrats, will be speaking with one voice on an extremely important foreign policy issue: Central America. We've signed today in the Cabinet Room a bipartisan accord on Central America which sets out the broad outlines of U.S. policy toward the region. We're seeking the same goals as those of the people of Central America: democracy, security, and peace.

In order to meet the challenge of realizing those goals, we must work together with Latin American democratic leaders, with the support of our European friends. Under the Esquipulas accord, insurgent forces have the right to reintegrate into their homeland under safe, democratic conditions with full civil and political rights, and that is the desire of the Nicaraguan resistance.

To achieve our objectives the bipartisan leadership of Congress has agreed to support my request for continued humanitarian assistance at current levels through the elections in Nicaragua scheduled for February 28, 1990. We do not claim the right to order the politics of Nicaragua; that is for the Nicaraguan people to decide. The Esquipulas accord requires a free, open political process in which all groups can participate. The playing field must be level. The burden of proof is on the Sandinista government to comply with the promises that it has made since 1979. And if they comply, we have an opportunity to start a new day in Central America.

The Soviet Union also has an obligation and an opportunity to demonstrate its ``new thinking.'' In other regional conflicts, it's adopted a welcome new approach, but in Central America, what we've seen to date is only ``old thinking.'' The Soviet Union has no legitimate security interests in Central America; the United States has many. We reject any doctrine of equivalence in the region. The Soviet Union and Cuba have an obligation to stop violating the provisions of Esquipulas.

Some see violence and despair in Central America, but I have a different view of its future. I can see a democratic Central America in which all nations in the region live in peace, where resources are devoted to social ends instead of military defense. I hope the Esquipulas accord and the bipartisan accord that we've signed here will someday be seen as the first step toward that future.

And now I'd like to ask Secretary Baker to say a word, and then I think the leaders would each like to say something. And they will respond to your questions.

Mr. Secretary, and thank you gentlemen, very much. Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

Speaker Wright. It's been a pleasure.

The President. Bob, thank you.

Reporter. Mr. President, does this mean the end of the war in Nicaragua?

The President. I'd refer the questions to the leadership and to the Secretary of State.

Note: The President's ninth news conference began at 10:25 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.

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