Via NY Times (4/20/1984):

Members of Congress are always writing ”Dear Colleague” letters to other members, promoting a bill or noting an event. Now 10 Democratic lawmakers have written a ”Dear Comandante” letter that is kicking up a fuss on Capitol Hill.

The letter is addressed to Daniel Ortega Saavedra, the coordinator of the junta that rules Nicaragua. In it, the lawmakers commend his Government ”for taking steps to open up the political process in your country” and urge greater efforts toward freer and more open elections.

‘At Best Unwise’

After the letter came to light in a Congressional debate on Nicaragua last week, Representative Newt Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, flew into a letter-writing frenzy of his own. Mr. Gingrich is circulating the ”Dear Comandante” missive to reporters around town, accompanied by a statement that accuses the authors of undercutting the Administration’s foreign policy.

”This letter,” Mr. Gingrich wrote, ”clearly violates the constitutional separation of powers. It’s at best unwise, and at worst illegal.” Representative Stephen J. Solarz, Democrat of Brooklyn, who helped draft the letter to Mr. Ortega, calls Representative Gingrich’s attack ”frankly ludicrous.”

The whole matter, Mr. Solarz said, has become ”the biggest mountain out of the smallest molehill.”

Indeed, Mr. Solarz said, the ”incredible irony” about the whole incident is that the 10 authors were asked to send the letter by Alphonso Robello, whom the Congressman describes as a leader in one of the paramilitary groups now battling the Sandinista leadership in Managua.

”The whole thrust of the letter is to encourage the Government of Nicaragua to hold free and fair elections,” the Brooklyn Democrat said. ”Presumably, that’s what Newt Gingrich and the Reagan Administration is trying to do themselves.”

The 10 authors include Jim Wright of Texas, the majority leader; Edward P. Boland of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and other senior Democrats in the foreign policy field. The letter tells Mr. Ortega that it was written ”in a spirit of hopefulness and goodwill” and voices regret that relations between Nicaragua and Washington are not better.

The writers stress that they all oppose further money for rebel campaigns against the Sandinista Government. In a veiled reference to the Reagan Administration, the letter says that if the Sandinistas do hold genuine elections, those who are ”supporting violence” against the Nicaraguan leaders would have ”far greater difficulty winning support for their policies than they do today.”

HT: Roger Noriega