Repression and public discontent are "far, far worse" in Nicaragua than they were in the Philippines before former president Ferdinand Marcos departed, Secretary of State George P. Shultz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.
Opening the Reagan administration's defense of its request for $100 million in aid for Nicaraguan rebels, Shultz basked in bipartisan praise from panel members for the U.S. role in Marcos' ouster.
"We see many of the same things" in Nicaragua, "except the situation is far, far worse," Shultz said. When Marcos was urged to fire on protesters, "in the end he couldn't do it," Shultz said. "Does anybody have any doubt what the order would be from the people running Nicaragua?"
President Reagan made the same point in a meeting with 32 members of Congress. "We stood for democracy in the Philippines; we have to stand for democracy in Nicaragua," White House spokesman Larry Speakes quoted him as saying.
Sen. Daniel J. Evans (R-Wash.) evoked a rare outburst of anger from Shultz when he joked that, if the Nicaraguan contras managed to expand their numbers to 20,000 with no U.S. aid since last May, a continued cutoff would make them larger than the Nicaraguan army.
"Are you serious about that? Is that a flip comment?" Shultz demanded. "It's a very serious subject," he said, banging a fist on the table. "There would be more people on this chart if we gave them some support, and they had some shoes to wear and some uniforms to wear and some military supplies."
Evans was one of several senators expressing concern about the implications of renewed aid to the contras. "We have upped the ante," he said. "If the result of this request is . . . a popular revolution, and they don't quite do it, what then do we do?"
Without the U.S. aid, Shultz said, "the situation will fall apart in a hurry." He said, "I know which side I'm on; I know who the bad and the good guys are here. I'm very comfortable with our position."
During a break, Shultz made a point of shaking hands with a member of the audience, maverick Nicaraguan rebel commander Eden (Commander Zero) Pastora. The administration has been wary of his rebel faction, which has been seeking inclusion in the United Nicaraguan Opposition group receiving U.S. humanitarian aid.
Earlier, Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) told reporters that, if the House had voted on the aid program yesterday, it would have been defeated.
He endorsed charges by Nicaraguan defector Alvaro Baldizon, a former special investigator for the ruling Sandinistas, that for four years special Sandinista military units have been dressing as contra troops and perpetrating atrocities against civilians.
"The debate is going to be decided on the relation of stories of human rights violations and their believability," Dornan said. The Sandinistas are orchestrating "an enormous act of deceit that is roping in U.S. congressmen," he said.
In a related development, some administration officials said a declassified version of a Sandinista "disinformation campaign" document will not be made public, as had been promised.
Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, had told reporters at the Shultz hearing that he was "still looking to see" whether it will be released. "It's a sources and methods problem," he said.