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Remilitarizing El Salvador
Published on Wednesday, October 18, 2000 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Remilitarizing El Salvador
Editorial
 
AMONG THE MANY foreign policy issues you won't hear mentioned by any of the presidential candidates is the fact that the United States is planning to build a military base in El Salvador.

As the U.S. Army prepares to enter the civil war raging in Colombia, American military strategists are searching for a military beachhead from which to supply troops sent to Latin America.

El Salvador is the country of choice because Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Mexico have all refused American requests for what the U.S. military calls an ``anti-drug listening post.''

U.S. officials insist that the American garrison will have a limited presence in this war- shattered country. The military, they say, would fly only two P-3 Orion reconnaissance planes, build a small number of radar outposts and station 60 American soldiers and their families in El Salvador.

But according to the official accord signed between the United States and El Salvador, there is no limit on the total number of soldiers and planes or buildings on the new military base.

Many Salvadorans are justifiably wary about the prospect of a new American military base. Twenty years ago, the United States supported an authoritarian right-wing government whose death squads waged one of the harshest anti-insurgency campaigns against leftist guerrillas in Central America. Fierce opposition in Congress and a vocal anti-war movement ultimately ended American support in 1992, but not before 70,000 people had lost their lives in a brutal 12-year war.

Now former guerrilla fighters, who just last March won the majority of seats in the National Assembly, fear that the United States will attempt to undermine their electoral success. Their concerns are legitimate.

American citizens should be concerned as well. As the United States pursues its militarized battle against drugs in Colombia -- without support from European allies -- our government risks spreading war throughout Central and Latin America.

2000 San Francisco Chronicle

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