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US and Central America -- `truth in advertising'

June 5, 1985

Bravo for John Hughes and ``Sticker Standards'' [May 17]. I have long wondered the same thing -- why aren't the same standards applied to the USSR? The point applies with equal force to European and third-world governments and publics. Why aren't the voices which so vociferously condemned US actions in Vietnam and are now protesting US actions in Central America heard when the Soviet Union savages Afghanistan? Mary L. Morgan Hays, Kan. John Hughes continues to boggle my mind.

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First, he says that ``beyond a few trainers, there are no American military personnel in El Salvador.'' In fact, there are 55 permanent military advisers, an unknown number of Marine guards at the embassy and perhaps at other locations, a US Army medical team of 20-plus people, and about 100 additional military advisers that are in El Salvador at any one moment (none of these supposedly stays more than three weeks, thus keeping them off the list of ``permanent''). There is an Air Force contingency (200-plus) in Honduras that flies Mohawk over-flights of El Salvador providing the Salvadorean military with their major intelligence source. The US also provides the Salvadorean government 45 cents of every dollar in its national budget. It is clearly evident that the US is not only ``in El Salvador,'' but it is there ``in spades.''

I don't agree with the bumper sticker that says, ``US Out of El Salvador,'' since a similar policy in Nicaragua eventually led to our illegal and immoral support of the contras, but the argument against the sticker is not the facts of our involvement, which is the most concentrated in the world except for Israel.

If Mr. Hughes has not seen the many bumper stickers attacking the Soviet Union and the Cubans and in support of the contras (the bumper stickers say ``freedom fighters''), then he should visit Miami or a town like my San Antonio where there are five military bases. Daniel M. Long San Antonio

The extent of US financial involvement in El Salvador goes well beyond the minimal level Mr. Hughes indicates. Without our government's financial support, the death-squad activities condoned by the power structure of El Salvador would long ago have been stopped. The same day's mail which brought Hughes's column also brought a notice about a 19-year-old woman in that country who was tortured, raped, and murdered after being taken into custody by government troops.

Americans don't pay taxes to support the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Most Americans already object to that occupation, so there is no need to change or mobilize public opinion. If, however, Mr. Hughes wants to sport such a bumper sticker, he should by all means do so. We who work for democracy and human rights for El Salvador also support those same goals here. Mary L. Hague Moreno Valley, Calif.

John Hughes's observation that there is a double standard in the bumper sticker industry is right on target. I couldn't care less about what bumper stickers say -- they comprise an inconsequential cultural trivium. What is significant, however, is that the article could have made the same valid criticism about a significant portion of our representatives in the national Congress, in the news media, in academia -- not to mention in the courts of our nation's capital, where persons arrested outside the South African embassy are set free, while those who protest peacefully near the Soviet embassy are being prosecuted with great zeal. Mark Hendrickson New Wilmington, Pa.