El Salvador: Dick Cheney's model democracy
"Brushing off Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards' gloomy take on conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vice President Dick Cheney insisted: 'Freedom is the best antidote to terror.'
Cheney explained: 'Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. ... And we held free elections. ... And as 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's a whale of a lot better because we held free elections.'
In the early 1980s, the United States provided the government of El Salvador more than $350 million in aid and trained hundreds of Salvadoran officers to suppress a guerilla insurgency rooted in rural poverty and militarism. After a democratic election in 1984, the government fell into the clutches of a series of military regimes, and the country into a prolonged civil war. As Cheney pointed out, more than 75,000 people were killed, and countless more tortured and forced into exile before the 1992 peace accords. In 1993, a United Nations Truth Commission revealed that government security forces and paramilitaries acting on their behalf committed 85 percent of the atrocities. Declassified U.S. intelligence confirms this.
Today in El Salvador, the government comes from the same ARENA party (though with different leadership) that organized the death squads of the early-1980s; the murder rate is the highest in Latin America; more than half of the country lives in poverty; GDP has barely recovered to pre-war levels; a drug trade run by paramilitary forces and transnational street gangs is flourishing; and the military, an institution with a horrific human rights record, still exercises enormous influence. And yet, the government in San Salvador remains loyal to Washington; El Salvador is a member of the "Coalition of the Willing."
-Everand Meade, San Diego Union-Tribune