March 17, 1986
I write about the upcoming vote on March 20, 1986 on U.S. policy toward Nicaragua.
The position of the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) on Nicaragua has three elements: (1) to protest and oppose human rights violations in Nicaragua, particularly those which restrict the ministry of the church; (2) to oppose military aid to any party in Nicaragua, including U.S. military aid to the Contras; and (3) to urge a much more creative and intensive effort by the United States and other key governments toward a diplomatic-political solution for Nicaragua and the Central American region. These three positions have been spelled out in previous congressional testimony; here we simply comment on each.
In the past year the human rights problem in general, and the specific issues surrounding the full and free exercise of the Catholic Church's ministry have reached very critical proportions. In previous congressional testimony the USCC has addressed human rights restrictions in Nicaragua regarding freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the rights of free trade unions and the exercise of the Church's ministry particularly as it pertains to the work of the Catholic bishops of Nicaragua. In recent months the restrictions on crucial aspects of the Church's work have intensified. In his presentation to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Cardinal Obando has enumerated some of the most serious issues: the harassment of church institutions, the closing of the publication IGLESIA and of Radio Catolica, the summoning of priests by state security forces for questioning, and a general pattern of restricting the freedom of the church to preach the gospel. The USCC believes that the human rights issues in Nicaragua are a necessary concern of U.S. foreign policy and of other states in the international community.
The USCC does not believe, however, that the provision of military assistance by outside powers to either side in Nicaragua is a useful contribution to a peaceful solution of the problem. Hence, the USCC opposes the measure before the House of Representatives to provide military aid to forces in conflict with the Nicaraguan government. Such aid, in our view, simply intensifies the conflict, has contributed to several thousand deaths and does not serve a useful political or humanitarian purpose. We urge the Congress to reject the provision of the military assistance package.
In contrast to this proposal we believe a productive road is open to U.S. action. It involves a full scale, high level commitment by the United States to support and facilitate the renewed Contadora peace process which has now been given new impetus by the Carabelleda Message of January 12, 1986. This new effort supported by the original Contadora group and the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Uruguay and affirmed by all five Central American states on January 14, 1986 is a very useful Latin American initiative. But it cannot succeed without the active support of the United States. It is this road which we hope the Congress will support for U.S. policy.
Thank you for your consideration of our views.
Reverend Msgr. Daniel F. Hoye