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Protesters Decry Cristiani Visit

Salvadorian President Evades Angry Demonstrators at Hotel

By Joshua A. Gerstein

Angry protesters confronted president Alfredo Cristiani of El Salvador last night as he arrived in Cambridge for a weekend visit to the Boston area.

Chanting "Death squad president, go home now!" approximately 35 demonstrators from the Harvard Committee on Central America (COCA) and the Central American Solidarity Association (CASA) marched for more than an hour in front of the Marriott Hotel in Kendall Sqaure.

Some protesters had said they would try to prevent Cristiani from entering the building. But their efforts were thwarted when Secret Service agents apparently whisked the controversial leader's motorcade into a hotel service entrance.

At about 9:30 p.m., the situation grew tense as the demonstrators entered the hotel lobby, yelling anti-Cristiani slogans and criticizing the Marriott for hosting the Central American leader.

As cries of "Death squad hotel" rang out in the lobby, Marriott employees moved quickly, closing the gift shop a half-hour earlier than usual. For their part, hotel guests seemed interested but unconcerned.

After about five minutes, the protesters left the building without incident.

Christian stopped in Cambridge after his visit to Washington, where he lobbied for continued aid to El Salvador. Secret Service officials at the Marriott said Cristiani was on a "private visit" and declined to release any details of his itinerary.

CASA members said Cristiani would visit with Cardinal Bernard Law on Saturday, but Harvard officials reached yesterday said they were unaware of any scheduled meeting between Christian and members of the Harvard community.

About 12 Harvard students joined in the demonstration, which participants said they planned soon after learning of Cristiani's visit this afternoon.

Students attending the rally said Cristiani's alleged ties to right-wing death squads and human-rights abuses prompted them to speak out against the Georgetown-educated head of state.

"Cristiani has been one of the most evil people in the world," said Sam K. Nelson '92. "The fact that the he should have the nerve to come here on a public relations trip seemed hypocritical."

U.S. Policy Criticized

Beverly Bell '92 described the U.S. policy of providing financial aid to the El Salvador government as "unconscionable." The Central American nation now receives more than $500 million from the U.S. government each year.

The activists said they were skeptical about Cristiani's decision to arrest a number of military men for the recent killing of several Salvadorian Jesuit priests.

"That was probably in response to external pressure," said Debbie M. Gurner '91.

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