President Reagan said in an interview published yesterday that the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua "is not a government" but "a faction of the revolution that has taken over at the point of a gun."
Reagan recently said he wanted to "remove in the sense of its present structure" the Sandinista regime and is pressing Congress for $14 million in aid to the rebels fighting the Sandinistas. Congress last year stopped aid to the anti-Sandinista "contras," whom Reagan calls "freedom fighters."
A White House spokesman said yesterday that Reagan, in his remarks to Business Week magazine, was not "trying to make a legal point" about the Sandinista regime and that the United States intends to continue diplomatic relations with Nicaragua.
The president was asked by the magazine how he can justify "helping to overthrow a government merely because we don't like its political coloration?"
"Well, they call themselves a government," he responded. "This is one faction of a revolution that overthrew a dictatorship. But then, just as President Fidel Castro had done in Cuba, one faction got in and muscled the others out.
"Some of them are jailed, some driven into exile. Some are leading the freedom fighters now. I think we have to ignore this pretense of an election they just held. This is not a government. This is a faction of the revolution that has taken over at the point of a gun.
"And under the United Nations charter and the charter of the Organization of American States, there is every reason for us to be helping the people that want the original goals of the revolution instituted," he said.
Reagan was referring to the overthrow of Anastasio Somoza in 1979. The president repeatedly has complained that the Sandinistas failed to live up to the promises, including free elections, that were made to the OAS when they took power.
Also yesterday, Secretary of State George P. Shultz said he hopes a bipartisan congressional delegation will travel to Nicaragua and take a "good, hard look" at the Sandinista government. "Whenever people have gone down there and taken a hard look -- of course they have to be careful that they don't get taken in by the propaganda -- but a good, strong, hard look has changed people's minds," he said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
At a lunch with reporters, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said of Shultz's comments: "I'll have to figure out what he has in mind or hopes to achieve . . . . I don't see any purpose to be served by a congressional delegation wandering around Nicaragua under Sandinista auspices."
On another topic in the Business Week interview, Reagan said the American dollar "is overvalued if you compare it to other currencies. Our recovery is ahead of other nations' recoveries, and they're still burdened by some rigidities that have to be corrected . . . The danger of trying to force the dollar down artificially is that it puts you back in the inflationary spiral."