Wednesday, October 06, 2004
A whale of a mischaracterization
I couldn't believe that Dick Cheney brought up El Salvador twenty years ago in the debate last night given the United States' horrendous record in Latin America during the 1980s. On CommonDreams, Stephen Zunes has a nice piece addressing "the most misleading foreign policy statements" made by both Cheney and Edwards. Here is what Zunes writes about El Salvador (which Cheney compared to Afghanistan and Iraq):
Cheney: “Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had -- guerrilla insurgency controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead, and we held free elections. I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress. The human drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote, was unbelievable. And the terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they left, the voters would come back and get in line and would not be denied the right to vote. And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections.”Ah yes, you can't love freedom any more than Dick Cheney, alright.
First of all, the United States was not supporting freedom in El Salvador twenty years ago. According to the United Nations Truth Commission and independent human rights organizations, the vast majority of those killed in El Salvador during this period were civilians murdered by the U.S.-backed junta and its allied paramilitary organizations Secondly, the Salvadoran elections Cheney observed in the 1980s were not free elections. The leading leftist and left-of-center politicians had been assassinated or driven underground and their newspapers and radio stations suppressed. The election was only between representatives of conservative and right-wing parties. Thirdly, despite threats from some of the more radical guerrilla factions, there were very few attacks on polling stations. Fourthly, people repeatedly lined up to vote because they were required to. Failure to get the requisite stamp that validated the fact that you had voted would likely get one labeled as a “subversive” and therefore a potential target for assassination. Lastly, El Salvador finally did have free elections in 1994, only after Congress cut off aid to the Salvadoran government and the peace plan initiated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias – which was initially opposed by the Republican administrations then in office in Washington – was finally implemented.