EARTHQUAKES IN MEXICO : U.S. Sympathy : First Lady Plans Visit to Stricken City

Times Staff Writer

First Lady Nancy Reagan will briefly visit earthquake-devastated Mexico City on Monday as an expression of U.S. sympathy for the disaster that besets its southern neighbor, although the State Department pointedly warned others to stay home.

Her plans were announced Saturday by President Reagan in his weekly radio broadcast, just hours after Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams harshly criticized Henry Cisneros, the Democratic mayor of San Antonio, for making such a trip.

The President said his wife would make the trip "to express the support of the American people for our courageous friend in Mexico and to explore how we can lend a hand in this ordeal."

"We greatly admire the bravery and resolve of the Mexican people to dedicate all their resources to overcome this calamitous event," the President said. "A tragedy like this reminds us that the desire to be a good neighbor is basic to the American character and to our foreign policy. We have already provided some technical assistance as requested by the Mexican government, and stand ready to help in every way in the days and months ahead."

Will Visit L.A.

Mrs. Reagan's press secretary, Elaine Crispen, said the First Lady intends to fly to Mexico City on Monday as she heads west on a previously announced five-day visit to Los Angeles. Her itinerary was revised to include a 900-mile side trip to Mexico City.

"Knowing she was going to California and having seen all the photos and coverage (of the earthquake), she couldn't be that close without stopping and expressing sympathy and offering any help she could," Crispen said.

At the State Department Saturday, Abrams rejected a reporter's suggestion that the First Lady's visit fell into the same category as the journey Cisneros made Saturday with Robert Krueger, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Two Los Angeles city officials, Councilman Art Snyder and Deputy Mayor Grace Montanez Davis, also left early Saturday for Mexico City to assess firsthand the needs of the quake-ravaged areas.

Swamped With Demands

On Friday, Abrams had forcefully told Cisneros on ABC-TV's "Nightline" program that his visit might burden a Mexican government already swamped with the demands posed by the earthquakes that shattered sections of its capital city on Thursday and Friday.

"We talked to the Mexican government about (Mrs. Reagan's visit) beforehand and it's a way of expressing the very strong sense of sympathy that all Americans have for the Mexican people at this time," Abrams said.

On the other hand, Abrams said, the Mexican government passed word when told of the Cisneros-Krueger visit, which was supported by Texas Gov. Mark White, another Democrat, that "such a visit would be burdensome."

Abrams said he criticized plans for the Cisneros-Krueger trip "because we had been told by the government of Mexico that they would prefer that he (Cisneros) not come; the opposite was true of Mrs. Reagan."

Under the tentative schedule blocked out for Mrs. Reagan, she will board an Air Force jet in Washington early Monday for the 1,900-mile flight to Mexico City, stay there for a few hours and fly on to Los Angeles for the night.

In Los Angeles, Mrs. Reagan is scheduled to attend a fund-raising dinner for the Joffrey Ballet, tape television spots supporting her campaign against alcohol and drug abuse, and receive the first annual award from the Entertainment Industries Council for her efforts against drug abuse.

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