President Reagan, seeking to bolster the government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte, will ask Congress for more than $172 million in additional aid for El Salvador this year, White House officials said today.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the request, which would bring total assistance for fiscal 1985 to more than $600 million, is consistent with a long-term aid plan suggested by a bipartisan presidential commission headed by former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.
"We're following the Kissinger Commission recommendations, which call for increasing military and economic aid for El Salvador," Speakes told reporters.
Speakes indicated that Reagan will ask Congress to bring military aid for El Salvador to about $200 million from the $128 million approved by Congress last year. He also hinted that the Administration will seek to add about $100 million to the $326 million in economic aid already approved for the year.
Final decisions, guided in part by rigid budget constraints, have yet to be made, he added. The outlook in Congress, however, is uncertain.
Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.), chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees U.S. policy in Central America, told the New York Times that the Administration "got everything they wanted" last year and may not succeed in obtaining more aid.
"We're trying to find areas for cuts, not increases," Barnes said in reference to the scramble to reduce huge budget deficits. "Since this is a case where they can't argue that Congress was not generous, I think a request for supplemental aid would be very closely scrutinized."
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State L. Craig Johnston told the newspaper that the additional aid would be used to improve the mobility of Salvadoran forces and improve battlefield communications.
Speakes denied that the move has been prompted by signs of a mounting threat to the stability of the U.S.-backed Duarte government.
But the newspaper reported that the Administration has become increasingly concerned about Duarte's position and is anxious to press Congress for an increase in aid as a demonstration of U.S. support for his leadership, especially with legislative elections scheduled for March.
Last year, the Kissinger Commission recommended a total of $400 million in military aid for El Salvador in 1984 and 1985--and the United States doubled the size of the Salvadoran helicopter fleet.