Kissinger panel asks for doubling of US aid
The Kissinger commission has recommended a long-range, multibillion-dollar aid program for Central America which is likely to be accepted in part but not in its entirety by the Congress.
Key congressional staff aides who specialize in the subject predict that many congressmen and senators will object to the sums of money proposed. The bipartisan, 12-member commission calls for US government economic aid of $8 billion over the next five fiscal years - more than double the amount currently going to Central America.
But much depends on how forcefully President Reagan supports the 132-page report he commissioned six months ago. The Kissinger report seems to support the basic thrust of Reagan administration policy in Central America. What it says in effect is that the United States ought to be doing more in the way of almost every kind of aid and that it ought to be carrying out its programs in a more coordinated, coherent, and long-range way. As one senior commission member told a group of reporters, ''We've done too little, too sporadically, and too incoherently.''
But administration officials are not pleased with the part of the report which says that military aid to El Salvador must depend on legislation requiring reports of progress toward securing human and political rights in that Central American nation.
Last Nov. 30, Reagan vetoed legislation requiring that the administration certify every six months as to human rights progress in El Salvador. A recent upsurge of killings by Salvadorean death squads focused new attention on this issue.
Commission chairman Henry A. Kissinger and two other commission members added a note to the commission report indicating that while they ''strongly endorse'' the objectives of the clause requiring that military aid to El Salvador be contingent on human rights progress, this requirement should not be interpreted in a manner that leads to a Marxist-Leninist victory in El Salvador.
After he had been presented with the report by Dr. Kissinger on Wednesday, President Reagan said that the report would not get bogged down in a dispute over this ''conditionality'' requirement. Reagan urged the Congress to unite with the administration over Central America issues ''in the same bipartisan way that this commission has.''
''We have a consensus recognition of the urgent nature and complexity of the crisis in Central America,'' Reagan said. ''I believe that the members of Congress, when they study this report, will share my belief that we must urgently seek solutions to the problems that are outlined.''
Kissinger said that the 12 commissioners had reached a consensus on the main conclusions of the report. The strongest objections to parts of the report came from two commissioners, San Antonio Mayor Henry G. Cisneros and Carlos F. Diaz-Alejandro, a Yale University professor of economics.
While Mr. Cisneros called the report ''a major contribution'' and Professor Diaz-Alejandro said he was ''proud to associate himself with it,'' both men objected to the part of the report which calls for continued military pressure on the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Part of that pressure is carried out by CIA-supported Nicaraguan insurgents.
The report says that the majority of commission members believe that efforts of the insurgents represent one of the incentives ''working in favor of a negotiated settlement'' in Central America. But Cisneros said that aid to the insurgents should be suspended so that the Sandinistas can demonstrate their capacity to move toward pluralism and to fulfill promises to hold free and fair elections. Diaz-Alejandro argued that support for the insurgents is ''likely to strengthen the most extremist sectors of the Sandinista leadership.''
Cisneros contended that ''further accommodation by the Nicaraguan regime to its internal opposition and to its neighbors can be encouraged through vigorous diplomacy by the United States.'' But Kissinger and a number of other commission members were said to believe that the Reagan administration was already doing as much as it could through diplomacy to find a negotiated settlement.
One commission member, John Silber, president of Boston University, said he would like to know specifically what Cisneros had in mind that the US was not doing. In an interview, Dr. Silber expressed doubt that the Sandinistas would ever engage in free and fair elections, because if such elections were held, they would, in his view, result in their being thrown out of office.
''The Sandinista government has not since 1979 in September ever given a promise to hold free and fair elections,'' said Silber, adding that laws passed by the Sandinistas since then have indicated that there will be no free elections.
According to Silber, any sign of movement toward accommodation and negotiations from Nicaragua has ''coincided perfectly'' with last year's invasion of Grenada on the one hand and with the beginning of US military exercises in Honduras on the other.
''Mr. Cisneros cannot point to a single historical datum in which the Sandinistas have proved more conciliatory in the absence of feeling pressure from the military and from the insurgents,'' said Silber.
But the Kissinger commission does not recommend direct American military action against Nicaragua. It says that this would entail ''major human and political costs'' and ''should only be regarded as a course of last resort and only where there are clear dangers to US security.''
The report does argue that Central America is in a state of acute crisis, requiring an urgent combination of political, economic, social, and military aid efforts. The current El Salvador ''stalemate'' favors the guerrillas, it says.
The report contends that the roots of the crisis are indigenous but that world economic recession and intervention by the Soviets, Cubans, and Nicaraguans have brought it to a head. A collapse of US-supported Central American nations would greatly increase America's security burden and possibly bring a redeployment of US forces to the detriment of vital interests elsewhere, the report says.
In the Congress, meanwhile, the report found immediate support from a number of Republican Senators and Congressmen who were briefed on it on Tuesday.
But an indication of some of the criticism which is likely to come shortly from a number of Democrats and Republican Liberals in the Congress came from Rep. Michael D. Barnes, a senior counselor to the Kissinger Commission and chairman of the House subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. Barnes travelled once to Central America with the commission and attended many of its meetings.
In a statement released Wednesday, Mr. Barnes, a Maryland Democrat, started out by saying that there were ''many positive recommendations'' in the commission report which he could endorse enthusiastically and would support in the House. Barnes has consistently favored a much expanded economic aid program for Central America.
But the subcommittee chairman concludes that ''the central thrust'' of the report - statements by commission members to the contrary - is to recommend ''military solutions'' for the region and ''to deny the viability iof political one.''
''The Commission's thesis that we can increase military aid for El Salvador and increase pressure for human rights at the same time is fundamentally flawed, '' said Barnes. ''We cannot tell the Salvadorean military that freedom in our hemisphere depends on their winning the war, and say that they need as much as 400 million US dollars to do it, and then expect them to believe that we will cut off the money unless they change the nature of their society.''
Barnes said he did not believe that the Congress would authorize significantly higher levels of military aid for El Salvador at thie time.
Barnes charged that the commission's peace plan for Central America is of an all-or-nothing nature. He claims that the commission is calling for the removal of the Sandinistas by force if they do not accept ironclad, verifiable peace agreements. Kissinger commission members Henry Kissinger, commission chairman. Nicholas F. Brady, former senator (R) from New Jersey, now chairman of Purolator Inc., and managing director of Dillon, Read & Co. Henry G. Cisneros, mayor (D) of San Antonio. William P. Clements Jr., former governor (R) of Texas. Carlos F. Diaz-Alejandro, Yale University economics professor. Wilson S. Johnson, president of the National Federation of Independent Business. Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO. Richard M. Scammon, political scientist. John Silber, president of Boston University. Potter Stewart, a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court. Robert S. Strauss, former chairman, Democratic Party. Dr. William B. Walsh, founder and president of Project Hope.