WASHINGTON — Secretary of State George P. Shultz said today the Administration will seek $270 million for the Nicaraguan contras for an 18-month period once the current aid allocation expires at the end of this month.
In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shultz said the Administration is asking for more money "to end the doubt and uncertainty about the capacity and commitment of the United States that is created by the recurring cycle of off-again, on-again aid decisions punctuated by protracted and divisive debate."
Shultz's announcement, sure to set off an intense congressional debate, drew immediate criticism from House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), who said the United States must act with restraint to help along the peace plan signed by five Central American presidents a month ago.
Wright said it was inappropriate for the Administration to make a request for more contra money while the peace process was under way.
"Such a request would anticipate the failure of the peace process. I don't anticipate the failure of the peace process. I anticipate success," he said."
Nicaraguan Ambassador Carlos Tunnermann reacted sharply to the announcement.
"This attitude shows contempt for the leaders of the region who in the Guatemala accord called upon the United States to stop waging war against Nicaragua," he said.
"It is the worst of signals that could be sent to Central America. It shows total disregard for the commitment of the leaders of the region to achieve peace."
Shultz noted that the Central American peace agreement, signed in Guatemala, sets a Nov. 7 deadline for implementation of a cease-fire and moves toward democratic reform.
Points Out Deadline
Pointing out that the U.S. fiscal year and aid to the contras both end on Sept. 30, Shultz said unless the rebels receive new funding, "the Guatemala calendar will play out entirely in favor of the communists."
At some point, he added, the contras will be facing advanced Soviet weaponry and Cuban advisers with rapidly dwindling resources and no further help from the United States.
"And as their resources disappear, the helicopter gunships and armored personnel carriers and rocket launchers that the Soviet Union is continuing to supply will guarantee a communist victory," Shultz said.