At our most recent Sojourners staff meeting, we were reviewing the content of this month's issue: "...and there will be an editorial on the justification of aid to El Salvador." The slip of the managing editor's tongue was unintentional, but spoke more to the point than do the proclamations of the Reagan administration about the human rights situation in El Salvador.
Last year Congress passed a ruling that the continuation of military aid to El Salvador would be conditional on Reagan's certification every six months of improvements in the country in four areas: human rights, control over its military forces, economic reforms, and commitment to free elections and negotiations among the competing factions in El Salvador's civil war. This summer progress on the investigation into the December, 1980 murders of four U.S. missionary women was added to the list of criteria.
At issue is $81 million in military aid committed for this year, and a proposed $166 million for next. On July 27, the Reagan administration, in a 48-page document signed by Secretary of State George Shultz, certified that conditions for the continuation of aid had been met.
Tragically lacking in the certification process is the requirement of proof. All evidence coming from the strife-torn country suggests that conditions have only worsened in the past six months. Since the country shifted to extreme right-wing control in March, the deaths have continued to mount.
Roberto D'Abuisson, leader of the ultra-right Republican National Alliance (ARENA), emerged as the head of the constituent assembly in the March elections. He made a campaign promise "to stamp out the guerrillas within a few months" by calling on 100,000 Salvadorans to take up their guns, an open invitation to slaughter.