Early Vote on El Salvador Likely in Congress

By Charley MacMartin
April 1990; page 9; Volume 1, No. 5

The Bush Administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are rushing action on the so-called "Panama/Nicaragua" supplemental measure of $800 million. Rep. Fascell (D-Fl), head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wants to see a vote on this authorizing measure before the Easter recess, which begins April 6.

Different proposals on El Salvador aid may be attached to the bill, along with other measures on a variety of issues. The current parameters of the El Salvador debate are:

  1. Rep. Solarz (D-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wants to attach language calling for "tranching," or release of the aid in six-month installments after presidential certification that conditions are improving in El Salvador and the aid is unwarranted. In order to stop the aid, Congress would have to pass a resolution and then amass the votes to override a likely presidential veto of the resolution.

  • "Liberal" members of the House Western Hemisphere Affairs Subcommittee favor an approach like that of Senator Dodd in the Senate: a 50 percent cut in the military aid to Cristiani's government unless the FMLN refuses to enter UN-mediated negotiations, and a 100 percent cut if the ARENA government refuses to talk or is overthrown by the ultra-right. It is also possible that some Democratic Party Committee members may promote a stronger approach similar to that of the Dellums bill, calling for an immediate freeze on aid to El Salvador.
  • Within the Foreign Affairs Committee, Solarz probably has a majority, counting the Republicans and conservative Democrats.

    Fascell's approach to the "Panama supplemental" is to split it into two segments, to be voted separately, part 1 is the Panama and Nicaragua aid, and part 2 is the El Salvador language and the other amendements.

    El Salvador Vencera

    The struggle within the Foreign Affairs Committee this week is over whether to rush a vote on El Salvador before the recess, as Fascell wants, or wait until the Moakley Task Force recommendations are issued, which will probably occur during the Easter recess. Moakley and other liberals are arguing to wait, and then base the policy on the Task Force recommendations.

    Either way, we are likely to see debates and votes on El Salvador in House Foreign Affairs and the full house very soon, possibly before April 6 or, if not by then, before the end of April. Action will then shift to the House Appropriations Committee, where the approach in the authorizing bill is likely to be followed closely.

    CISPES' position is that no aid to the ARENA death-squad government is acceptable. During April, Austin CISPES calls upon Texas constituents to demand of their Congresspeople that they oppose and work to stop all aid to Cristiani's government.

    Lessons from "Contra Aid" debates of the 1980s

    Why doesn't CISPES take a supportive position to any of the legislation proposed? To build a principled movement against the criminal foreign policy of the United States, our message must be that all Salvadoran aid must stop now! While we are not opposing the "Dodd approach," neither does it go far enough. We should also be urging members of Congress to pressure the Cristiani government to lift the undemocratic state of seige, and cease repression against the trade union, peasant, displaced and student movements. To do otherwise drags us - as a movement - into the exact arena in which the elite of this country want us to participate legislative lobbying and unprincipled compromises. Indeed, this was the failure of the solidarity movement during the 1980s in support of the Nicaraguan revolution. We were sucked into tedious debates over how much aid should be given to a war by proxy; the position of no aid to the contras all but disappeared in Congress after 1985.

    As Congress Debates, Salvadorans Die

    Carlos Colocho, member of the Salvadoran construction workers union (SOICSCES), was assassinated near his workplace on the morning of March 20 by men in civilian dress who identified themselves of the Salvadoran Air Force.

    Carlos Colocho worked at the construction project run by the company, COGEFAR, which builds housing in Apopa just north of the capital, and is funded by the Italian government. The construction workers at the site have been involved in several labor conflicts within the company, involving protracted work-stoppages in which the union won several demands involving conditions and benefits for workers.

    The construction site has been militarized by troops of the Atlacatl Battalion and the Air Force for the past few months.

    Community Organizer Abducted

    In further news last week, Carlos Castro, leader of PADECOES (Committee for Community Development) was abducted by heavily armed men in civilian dress on Saturday, March 17. He was captured in the community Barrio La Cruz, Via el Triunfo, in the northern part of Usulutan province. This is the area where nearly a thousand refugees repatriated from the San Antonio refugee camp earlier this month.

    PADECOES members say Carlos was taken by the Treasury Police and then transferred to National Police headquarters, though the Police have not formally recognized his detention. Carlos Castro is a member of the Executive Council of PADECOES, and of their Relations Commission.

    FMLN Announces Deescalation in Conflict

    During March, the General Command of the Farabudo Marti National Liberation Front unilaterally halted attacks against the infrastructure of the ruling ARENA government in El Salvador. The intent was to provide a constructive step toward achieving the participation of the Secretary General of the United Nations as a mediator in peace talks between the FMLN and the Salvadoran government of Alfredo Cristiani. The ARENA government responded with a statement that offered little beyond self-congratulation for Cristiani and the Salvadoran Armed Forces.

    In addition, Cristiani stops short of accepting an active mediating role of the part of the UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar. Instead, the statement calls for the "renewal of talks ... under the good offices of the United Nations." The vague nature of the government's position of what the UN role should be has been a sticking point during negotiations in March.

    On March 15, the FMLN General Command issued a second statement warning the government of El Salvador that its lack of clarity put at risk the peace process in El Salvador. The FMLN's statement is reprinted below.

    The FMLN General Command welcomes the government's acknowledgement of the FMLN's good will gestures. However, we see the absence of a corresponding attitude in their response as a negative sign. In light of this, we declare the following:
    1. That the government's response attempts to disparage our gestures. It has never been FMLN policy to attack or injure the civilian population. Our gestures clearly contribute to facilitating the participation of other political and social forces in the process of reaching a political-negotiated solution, and in the effort to humanize the conflict.

  • That the government and the Armed Forces continue violating Human Rights, bombing civilian areas, subjecting the country to a permanent state of siege - whether legally decreed or de facto, maintaining a constant systematic policy of detention and torture of leaders of popular organizations and of military cordons and searches of their offices, of harassment of the repatriated communities, and of sabotage of the property of the residents of the FMLN control zones.

    Meanwhile the trial of the Jesuit priests' murderers is at a standstill; the suspents have been promoted or sent outside the country. Efforts are being made to promote to Defense Minister the officer who actually gave the assassination order, and the person accused of being the main executioner is being allowed to live in a luxury apartment.

  • We are in agreement as to the permanent, serious, substantive, and moderate character that the negotiation process has to have.
  • That the government is morally and politically obliged to immediately stipulate good will gestures, extend civil liberties, and end the daily human rights violations and all forms of aggression against the civilian population.
  • And we warn that for the government, and the Armed Forces to believe their daydream that the FMLN is weakened, and that to attempt to harden their position on the war would be lamentable for the people's goal of peace and democracy. This error would only lead to deepening the war and postponing the chances for negotiation, democratization, and peace in El Salvador.
  • The statement was signed by member of the General Command: Schafik Handal, Eduardo Sancho, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Francisco Jovel, and Joaquin Villalobos.


    Cispes announces an educational meeting Tuesday March 27 at 7:30 in the UT Student Union, Room TBA, with reports from El Salvador in March. Check the Union bulletin board for details.

    El Peublo Unido!