Reagan tests Latins on US role in Salvador

The Reagan administration, faced with the dilemma of what to do in El Salvador's civil war, is dispatching its envoys to Europe and Latin America to explain its strategy.

While Ambassador Lawrence Eagleburger flies around West European capitals, Gen. Vernon Walters, former deputy director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, and several other envoys have been dispatched across Latin America.

Their aim: to convince leaders of the seriousness of the political and military situation in El Salvador. Presidents, generals, and politicians are being told about Soviet and Cuban arms reaching leftist guerrillas and that Washington is determined to throw its weight on the side of the centrist government in the Central American country.

Today's envoys, however, are likely to find that the climate of support for US military intervention is less strong now than it was for President Johnson in the Dominican intervention.

Sure to be more welcome, inside and outside El Salvador, is the US State Department's announcement of support for El Salvador's economic and social initiatives.

Salvadoran leaders had been deeply worried that the Reagan administration would put a military victory ahead of support for reforms they regard as essential in the struggle against the guerrillas. Some Salvadoran officials say a military win would be hollow without these reforms -- land distribution to peasants, nationalization of the banking industry, and steps to encourage growth of the private se ctor.

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