The Secretary of State, Washington, DC, April 16, 1985.
Hon. Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Dear Mr. Speaker: Thank you for your letter of February 28 requesting the Administration's views on a letter to you of the same date from Nicaraguan President Ortega. In addressing a detailed statement of Nicaraguan policy and objectives to the Congress, together with specific proposals for action, Mr. Ortega is obviously attempting to circumvent normal government-to-government channels. Although unorthodox and inappropriate under our constitutional system such tactics have become routine practice by the Sandinistas in their efforts to obtain diplomatic and public relations advantage and to influence directly the Congress of the United States. I was pleased, therefore, to note in your letter to Mr. Ortega the emphasis on the constitutional responsibility of the President for the conduct of our foreign relations.
In this same vein, I believe the most appropriate procedural response would be a formal diplomatic note from the American Ambassador in Managua, on behalf of the United States Government, to the Government of Nicaragua. This response would note the referral of Ortega's letter by the Congress to the Executive Branch and would attempt to discourage the Nicaraguans from the belief that they can conduct foreign relations with the United States Congress as distinguished from relations with our government.
Mr. Ortega's direct invitation to the Congress to conduct an official inspection of the Nicaraguan military buildup presents obvious difficulties. At the same time, Congressional travel to Nicaragua and Central America has contributed to a better understanding within the Legislative Branch of the complex sources of conflict in the region. I recognize the value of such foreign travel in assisting the Congress to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities in the formulation of U.S. policy. Therefore, I strongly encourage members of Congress, of both parties and regardless of their views on Central America, to visit not only Nicaragua but all of the countries of the region. I would urge them to spend as much time there as their schedules will permit, to travel outside the capitals, and to talk with citizens in and out of government and of all political persuasions in order to better understand the difficult issues we must all resolve in forgoing a bipartisan policy on Central America. The Department of State will be pleased to assist Members of Congress with their travel in any way possible.
With respect to the substantive points raised by Mr. Ortega in his letter to you, I have enclosed an analysis that I hope will be useful. We plan to respond to these points in our note to the Government of Nicaragua referred to above.
George P. Shultz