Keeping pressure on Congress to support his $100-million aid package for anti-government guerrillas in Nicaragua, President Reagan charged Saturday that Sandinista government forces dress as guerrillas, "then murder and mutilate ordinary Nicaraguans."
The charge was the latest in a lengthening list of allegations against the Marxist-led government, a bill of particulars that the President plans to spell out in detail in a speech to be televised at 5 p.m. PST today on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN.
Reagan said Saturday that murder and brutality against Nicaraguan citizens in the countryside are being carried out by Tomas Borge, the Sandinista interior minister, in an effort to discredit the U.S.-supported contra guerrillas, whom he calls "freedom fighters."
"This, then, is why I'm asking the Congress to provide the Nicaraguan Freedom fighters not only with much-need humanitarian aid, but with military supplies," he said in his weekly radio address, which he delivered from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. "They must be given the means to fight back."
In recent days, the battle over aid to the Nicaraguan contras has been an overwhelming preoccupation in public pronouncements from the White House, with the President taking the lead. In spite of hints that he would be willing to accept a compromise with Congress, he has continued to insist that the contras must have the full $100 million, $70 million of which would be in the form of military assistance.
On Saturday, he reiterated his oft-stated contention that the Nicaraguan government has undermined the efforts of the so-called Contadora Group, four Latin American governments that have tried to arrange a regional peace agreement through diplomatic mediation.
In a broadcast reply to Reagan's address, Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash), the House majority whip, took sharp exception to the President's comments blaming the Sandinista government for failed negotiations.
"The Administration has been paying only lip service to the Contadora efforts and has actually either ignored or undermined them," Foley said.
"Now the President seems to reject all further efforts at negotiation," Foley said. "Rather than reject further efforts at negotiation, we believe the President of the United States is the one person who can breathe new life into the (Contadora) process. . . . "
At the outset of the current debate over helping the contras, it was conceded that the Administration did not have the votes to get its aid request through the Democrat-controlled House, which is scheduled to begin consideration of the proposal on Wednesday. But majority leaders acknowledge that the Administration has gained ground as the issue nears a vote.