El Salvador, Continued
LESS THAN TWO WEEKS ago, the ruling regime in El Salvador executed yet another move to repress all avenues of dissent in the tiny war-torn country: It arrested almost all University deans and professors, rounded up every student suspected of sympathizing with the leftist guerrillas and carted them off to detention centers. As anyone familiar with the policies of Duarte's regime knows, many of these professors and students were undoubtably murdered outright; others are being tortured.
As if oblivious to the realities of Duarte's policy in dealing with dissidents, President Reagan has instead expressed horror at Soviet support of El Salvador's casualty-ridden guerrilla forces. Rather than reevaluating U.S. policy toward the Central American nation in order to ascertain if it is indeed important enough to turn into the next battlefield of Soviet and U.S. warfare, the Reagan administration is currently deliberating just how much the United States should escalate its aid. The answer is, of course, that the United States should cease all military funding to Duarte's repressive regime. But Reagan's withdrawal of moderate ambassador Robert White indicates the President would rather turn El Salvador into helpless badlands of repression than allow a popularly supported leftist victory.
In Washington, D.C., and across the country on a smaller scale, human-rights and church groups have been working to educate America's elected officials about the realities of El Salvador's "reform-minded" junta. One politician touched by such efforts is Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) who recently returned from a fact-finding mission in El Salvador. "During our recent trip to Central America," Studds says, "we obtained eyewitness evidence of the atrocities that are regularly committed by forces representing the Duarte regime. Tape-recorded conversations tell of murder, rape, torture, the burning of crops and harassment of all kinds aimed at destroying whole villages suspected of harboring individuals in opposition to those presently in power."
Studds continues to catalogue the horrors he saw and heard about during his visit. As a result, he is co-sponsoring legislation which would terminate U.S. arms sales and military assistance to the current government of El Salvador.
Not surprisingly, the legislation will face a tough battle on the Hill. To pass, it needs several more knowledgeable and committed co-sponsors. Massive public support will be necessary for the bill to gain approval first in the Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, then in full committee, and finally on the floor of the House. So the United States withdraws its millions of dollars of support to an abhorrent regime and so students and professors may learn and teach in the kind of freedom we enjoy--so the people of El Salvador can have the government they want--we urge support of the Studds bill. With letters and phone calls to Congress, legislation will have a chance before Reagan's deadly aid makes its way to El Salvador.