Tuesday, June 08, 2004

EDH: Reagan's "interventionist and ruinous" scheme in El Salvador

Every once in a while it's good to read the editorial page of the far-right El Diario de Hoy just to remind ourselves of who's running that influential paper, one of the two largest in the country. Today's editorial finally has something to say about Reagan, who gets a decidedly mixed review.

EDH loves Reagan's fight against communism, and his defense of the market, but they're deeply critical of his contradictory role in El Salvador:

In 1980 El Salvador was at the brink of collapse, since the Carter presidency in the U.S. began applying the same strategy that two years earlier had made Nicaragua fall into communism. Carter encouraged a coup d'etat that, at the end of 1979, brought to power a coalition of communists, christian democrats and fellow travellers, with a radical agenda. The theory was that, by adopting the policies pushed by the extreme left, the country was going to avoid falling into the same situation as Nicaragua, but the Carter objective was another: turn the country over to communism.

The Reagan victory reversed this plan: the United States began to arm our military and the Carterist strategy was foiled. But, inexplicably, Reagan supported the gang of thieves that Carter had installed in power, resulting in the bankruptcy of the country, and in a twelve-year war, longer than the two world wars combined. A liberal president, apostle of the free market, maintained an interventionist and ruinous scheme in El Salvador, contradicting his great work.
While there's no "objective" evidence that Carter's objective was to turn the country over to communism, at least this last point has a basis in fact. In 1984, the Reagan administration provided both overt and covert assistance to Duarte in the presidential contest against Roberto D'Aubuisson:

The CIA reportedly gave a significant amount of funds, possibly between $1 million and $3 million, for Duarte's campaign... On the overt side, the US Embassy lobbied very actively on Duarte's behalf in El Salvador, making sure that all major political sectors understood that the United States government favored a Duarte victory and that a victory by the right would jeopardize the extensive economic and military aid relationship between the two countries.
This last part sounds familiar, eh? These details can be found just about anywhere, because they were reported at the time in places like the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and Time magazine. My cite is taken from Tom Carothers' first book, In the Name of Democracy, about U.S. Policy toward Latin America in the Reagan years.

Carothers says in a footnote that while the $1-3 million might not sound like a lot of money, the assistance provided to Duarte would equal about $50-$100 million in the U.S. context, if you take into account the relative size of the two populations.

So that's why the Salvadoran Right begrudges Ronald Reagan.

NOTE: Jefferson Morley of the Washington Post, in his online discussion today, says: "I am quite sure it is only case I have seen of Reagan being criticized from the right, for being too much like Jimmy Carter."