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Power in the Service of Peace in Central America I am delighted to have this opportunity to review developments in Central America with you. Before entering into full detail, however, I want to put our message right up front. It's a clear and simple message.
* The United States is for peace and democracy in Central America. President Reagan has worked for peace and democracy there, with determination and great skill. And we have seen some remarkable progress as a result.
* In August, there was an agreement in Guatemala among the five Central American presidents. That agreement offers a chance for further progress. The threats to democracy are still very real, and our national security stakes are still very high. That makes it all the more important that we help implement that agreement in ways that are sound.
* The progress made so far has come about because strength provided the foundation for diplomacy. Today diplomacy is in the forefront. But if we are to continue to make progress, it is essential to keep up the pressures and incentives that got us here in the first place.
Progress in Central America
I sometimes wonder how many people remember that in 1980-81, most analysts thought it was too late to end the violence in El Salvador and the turmoil in Nicaragua. The Soviet Union and Cuba were benefiting directly from these conflicts so close to our shores. Some thought the United States might ultimately face a choice between using U.S. troops to stop communism in Central America or having the Soviet Union gradually become the dominant power from Panama to Mexico.
The record--of claims and counterclaims--is amply documented in the hearings before this committee. It attests to what was thought then and where we are now.
The President understood that communism couldn't bring freedom or prosperity to Central America any more than it has to Cuba. So he decided to support Central Americans willing to work, and if necessary to fight, for democracy and human dignity. By backing Central American efforts to achieve freedom and prosperity, we would be protecting our own security.
That decision began to turn the tide in Central America. First one country then another made a remarkable recovery from near-disastrous circumstances at the beginning of the decade. Today elected democratic governments are offering their people the chance for a better future in El Salvador, Honduras, and most recently Guatemala. Costa Rica continues to enjoy freedom and the rule of law, as it has for decades.
We can be proud of our country's role in this progress. And I mean exactly that: Americans in general, Democrats and Republicans, can be proud of our country's contributions. Our strategy has been to support reform and freedom, it has had substantial bipartisan support, and it has worked.
Consider what happened in El Salvador: faced by the 1981 guerrilla offensive, this Administration increased U.S. military aid, but we also continued U.S. support for Carter Administration initiatives backing land reform and human rights. We supported development, democracy, diplomacy, and defense as parts of a single interrelated whole. Many problems remain, but today Salvadoran democrats know they can count on the political and material support of the United States.
The National Bipartisan Commission on Central America developed this comprehensive approach further for all of Central America. In the last few years, bipartisan majorities in Congress have consistently approved the increased resources essential to make this democratic development strategy work.
As the United States and its neighbors began to work together for …