Quayle Tells Salvadoran Military that Aid Depends on Rights Efforts
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Vice President Dan Quayle on Friday called for improvements in human rights conditions in El Salvador, saying future U.S. support for the Central American nation is tied to such efforts.
Quayle also said during a one-day stop here that if President Jose Napoleon Duarte agrees to a request by the leftist rebels to postpone the country’s March 19 election, the Bush administration will back him.
Duarte, in a luncheon toast honoring Quayle on Thursday, called the rebels’ election plan a step in the right direction ″because for the first time they expected there exists an electoral alternative.″
The rebels said they would recognize the election under certain conditions, including postponement until September.
After praising Duarte as a champion of human rights during his five-year term, which is coming to a close, Quayle said, ″Now as we approach elections there has been more violence ... on both the left and the right.″
″Why I am here today is to reiterate in the strongest terms possible our commitment to democracy and the advancement of human rights,″ he told reporters in a news conference at the home of Ambassador William Walker.
″There are consequences to human rights violations in the future,″ he added, then he left to privately address military leaders on the human rights issue.
″We, the United States, are committed to the process and the system of democracy. Democracy means human rights and decency,″ he said. ″Our commitment and our support is conditioned on this process and this system.″
One day earlier, Quayle had taken strong issue with former President Carter’s comment that the new Bush administration should rely on ″economic pressure″ to further the cause of human rights in El Salvador.
At the White House Friday, presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said of Quayle’s comment on Carter, ″The vice president is free to say whatever he wants to say. I think the vice president’s a pretty astute fellow.″
Quayle said Friday he would speak in direct, emphatic and specific terms to the military leaders, who have been accused of failing to adequately curb human rights violations. He compared his planned comments to those of then- Vice President Bush, who in 1983 told the Salvadorans that U.S. aid would dry up if the human rights situation did not improve.
A senior State Department official who attended the meeting said Quayle told the military leaders the congressional consensus behind aid to El Salvador was ″of necessity a fragile thing and that sliding back on the human rights question would threaten it.″ The official commented only on condition he not be named.
The vice president’s visit came against a backdrop of El Salvador’s presidential campaign and maneuvering over how to deal with the peace proposal offered by the rebels last week.
″If President Duarte announces a consensus within the constitutional framework, I am sure there would be strong support from the administration″ on postponement of the election, Quayle said in the strongest statement to date by a U.S. official on the peace proposal.
The proposal by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, is ″a step forward,″ he said. He said that was why Duarte, after an initial negative reaction, did not reject it outright.
″But now it is incumbent for reciprocity from the FMLN, reciprocity to cease fire now,″ Quayle said.
Quayle met Friday also with political leaders and Roman Catholic Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas, an intermediary in carrying the rebels’ peace proposal to San Salvador.
The political delegation that Quayle saw included presidential candidates Alfredo Cristiani of the rightist Republican Nationalist Alliance, or Arena, and Fidel Chavez Mena of Duarte’s Christian Democratic Party.
Arena leader Roberto d’Aubuisson, who has long faced allegations of involvement with right-wing death squads, was not invited to the meeting.
Quayle also chose not to meet with a third, trailing presidential candidate, Guillermo Ungo, of the leftist Democratic Convergence coalition, which is closely allied with the FMLN.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the left was passed over because ″we feel it is inappropriate because we do not know how serious the FMLN is with this proposal.″
Duarte initially blasted the Jan. 23 proposal as unconstitutional because it called for changing the constitutionally mandated March election.
U.S. officials felt the proposal was worth examining because of the rebels’ first-ever offer to join in elections without demanding power-sharing as a precondition.
The United States has provided more than $3 billion in aid to El Salvador this decade.
The early 1980s were marked by many killings of civilians, and soldiers and right-wing death squads were blamed. After 1984, human rights violations seemed to decrease, but violence by both left and right has picked up again in the last year.
Quayle was under heavy security during his visit. The press corps in the motorcade behind his bulletproof limousine rode in vans customized against attack.