EVER SINCE the fifties, American foreign policy has been confronted by civil strife in developing countries. These countries find themselves torn between a right-wing that is undemocratic but pro-U.S. and a left-wing that supposedly began by admiring the American Revolution, but became radicalized because of U.S. disinterest in their cause and now are pro-Soviet. The American hope has always been to find a democratic, non-radical, viable "third force" in place of the other two unpalatable alternatives. In El Salvador, at long last, we are confronted by a real "third force." It, the present government, is not only reformist but possesses enough clout in the army to be more than a mirage in the minds of men.
In order to gain this support, the regime has had to shake hands with the devil, reality, and make some concessions to the army to keep military support. Yet an amazing start has been made. All large (over 1250 acres) farms have been made into cooperatives. The landless sharecroppers have been given freehold title to the soil they work. In fact, the far right tried to slow down the program by killing the American land reform experts sent by U.S. labor unions who were running the show. Moreover, the far right dislikes the presence of American military advisors who inhibit the more reactionary officers in the El Salvadoran army from committing atrocities.
It ought not to be taken as a given that if the centrist regime were to fall, the victors would be the left. The right is not a one-man dictatorship, like Somoza's, but a rather powerful grouping that is able to function effectively even without possession of the government.
The left, moreover, is small and extreme, without popular support. Their several "final offensives" have all utterly failed. Hardly anybody came out for the strike they called recently. The peasants are not interested in ideology, but in justice, which is what the present regime is trying to provide. Yet the guerrillas have extensive foreign backing. Until a few months ago, they were better armed than the El Salvadoran army. Even former Ambassador Robert White, who angered right-wing Latin American governments by blasting them on human rights, has admitted that Soviet arms. Cuban advisors, and Nicaraguan mercenaries have played a part in whatever successes the left has obtained. In fact, the killing of the American nuns, at first attributed to the right wing because the weapons were of American make, may have been done by the left, after all. It is now known that Vietnam has been shipping some of its stock of captured American weapons to El Salvador.
The Nicaraguan situation shows what "liberation" by the left means. The Marxist Sandinistas have taken over all military forces, muzzled the bishops, postponed elections till God-knows-when, and have turned Nicaragua into an instrument of Cuban and Soviet foreign policy.
Venezuela, one of the few democratic countries in Latin America, and an early supporter of the Nicaraguan rebellion, has denounced the El Salvadoran left, and supports the centrist regime. Mexico, too, has shied away from its early support of the guerrillas as their nature and backing became clear.
In a move full of unsubtly irony, the UN has denounced El Salvador's current regime. Never in 25 years has the UN found the time to condemn the USSR's invasion of Hungary, or Cuba's imprisonment and torture of thousands of men and women who fought against Batista but who wanted democracy and not communism.
At this time, the U.S. government is preparing to send between $63 to $200 million in economic, as well as some military aid to the centrist regime. One must be realistic: either a right-wing or a left-wing take-over will bring repression, massive blood-letting, and another discarded cause on the rubbish-heap of liberal infatuations. The only pro-democratic force in El Salvador is the moderate regime. Beset on both sides, it needs, and deserves, out support.
Hilary Andrew Kinal '82, a government concentrator, is president of the Harvard Radcliffe Conservative Club.
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