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National Archives

Public Papers - 1989

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on President Bush's Meeting With President-Elect Alfredo Cristiani of El Salvador


President Bush met with Salvadoran President-elect Alfredo Cristiani and Vice President-elect Francisco Merino in the Oval Office for 30 minutes today. The President again congratulated Mr. Cristiani for his first-round electoral victory on March 19. The President said he looked forward to establishing the same sort of working relationship that he and President Reagan had with President Duarte. In furtherance of that goal, the President issued an invitation to Mr. Cristiani to come to Washington in late summer for an official working visit. Mr. Cristiani accepted the President's offer and expressed his hope of enhancing our mutual cooperation.

The President stated in strongest terms his commitment to support Salvadoran democracy and his admiration of the commitment of the Salvadoran people who risked death or injury by guerrilla threats to interrupt the vote. A U.S. observer team from both political parties, as well as electoral observers from other countries, have certified the election as free and fair. The President noted that El Salvador's democratic institutions stand in marked contrast to those of Nicaragua. The Salvadoran press is free. Political groups mount demonstrations without government interference. And the Government has granted a total amnesty.

For the past 8 years, our commitment to El Salvador has reflected a bipartisan consensus. Nevertheless, there have been some voices that have prejudged Mr. Cristiani and who are pessimistic about the future. The President stated his view that Mr. Cristiani should be given the chance to prove his dedication to democracy, peace, and human rights. Mr. Cristiani has already proven his ability to run a fair campaign, which inspires our confidence about the future.

The President and Mr. Cristiani noted the importance of human rights in El Salvador. The President noted with satisfaction Mr. Cristiani's role in helping to overturn the decision of a judge who released rightwing elements accused of involvement in kidnapings. The President offered continued U.S. assistance to improve Salvadoran judicial institutions.

Mr. Cristiani warmly endorsed the bipartisan accord on Central America as a contribution to peace and said that the focus must remain on Nicaraguan democratization. The President indicated that we would consult El Salvador, as well as the other Central American democracies, on peace issues.

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