President Reagan renewed his plea for congressional support of rebels in Nicaragua Saturday and linked a top official of the country's leftist government with the illicit drug trade.
"While the cutoff of aid to the freedom fighters was a dreadful mistake, getting the cause of peace and freedom back on track, not recrimination, must now be our goal," Reagan said in his weekly radio address."There is a chance for a real bipartisan consensus in support of Contra aid," the president said from the presidential retreat at Camp David.
He noted that "one of its strong supporters" - Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, who has voted for aid for the rebels in the past - has been named as the Democratic candidate for vice president.
Reagan appealed for support of legislation being proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., that calls for $27 million in humanitarian assistance, with an additional $20 million in military aid to be triggered later if it is found to be needed.
"Final details are being worked out," Reagan said. "I urge members of the Senate to support the aid package, and I also ask the House of Representatives to move speedily and favorably on the Senate legislation."
Reagan said the House decision in February to cut off Contra aid "removed the principal prod, the military victories and popular success of the freedom fighters, to Sandinista participation in the peace plan."
He said it "sent an immediate signal of American weakness to the Communists" and has had "costly and sad consequences."
"In Nicaragua, a renewed attack on political dissent is being led by the head of the secret police, Tomas Borge, a dedicated Communist and grim, hardened represser of human rights, whose office, according to our Commission on Organized Crime, has also been actively engaged in the international drug trade," he said.