Public Papers

Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua


President Chamorro. It's a wonderful visit. It always is, but I think we feel even more united now than ever.

President Bush. Well, I think so.

President Chamorro. We always come to the United States feeling at home, just as we are awaiting your visit in Nicaragua.

President Bush. We weren't sure our Assistant Secretary, Bernie Aronson, was going to make it. He was down in Peru. He can tell us. He can tell us, yes. He's coming over. He's going to wait for these cameras.

Manuel Noriega Verdict

Q. Mr. President, your reaction to the Noriega verdict?

President Bush. Noriega was convicted, I think, on 8 out of 10 counts. Well, I think it's a major victory against the drug lords. We're going to continue the fight against drugs in every way possible. But I think it's significant that he was accorded a free and fair trial, and he was found guilty. And I hope it sends a lesson to drug lords here and around the world that they'll pay a price if they continue to poison the lives of our kids in this country or anywhere else. And so, in my view, the case was a solid case. And I've not commented on it since it began in the court, but now that he has been convicted I think it's proper to say that justice has been served.

Q. Was it worth invading Panama to get this verdict?

President Bush. It was certainly worth bringing him to justice. It's certainly always worth it when you protect the lives of American citizens. And when a part of the result of that is democracy in a country, it makes it doubly worth it. But yes, I'm glad he's out.

Q. Are you sorry things are not better for the Panamanians these days?

President Bush. I wish things were better for the Americans, for the Panamanians, for the Nicaraguans, and for everybody. But we're going to continue to work to see that that is true.

Q. Mr. President, are you surprised by the verdict, given the fact that it almost ended in a mistrial?

President Bush. No, because I've felt that from what I understood that the case was very solid. But I think it's a good thing, and I think the main thing is it sends a message to the drug lords that they are going to be brought to justice. And I salute those countries that are waging a good fight against narcotics in their countries, and many in this hemisphere are doing just exactly that.

British Elections

Q. Mr. President, have you heard from John Major?

President Bush. No, I haven't. Any exit polls here? They don't start -- we talked to the -- --

Mr. Scowcroft. They don't cast anything about exit polls until the polls close, which is 5 p.m. our time.

President Bush. Ten p.m. their time, yes. They stay open late over there. Big British election, as you know.

Okay, you guys, you're out of here.

Note: The exchange began at 3:13 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. President Chamorro spoke in Spanish, and her remarks were translated by an interpreter.