Although the Salvadoran conflict has slipped from newspaper headlines and from television screens, fighting between leftist guerrillas and government troops goes on daily in the hapless Central American nation.
Last week alone, more than 200 Salvadorans were killed in a variety of skirmishes between guerrillas and soldiers -- as well as in several police raids on civilians suspected of collaborating with the guerrillas and in similar raids by guerrillas on farmers who have cooperated with the government in land-reform efforts.
It was a typical week.
An end to this carnage still appears distant. But this week a voice of hope was raised that there may be some recent progress toward resolution of El Salvador's problems.
The new United States ambassador in El Salvador says "things are moving in the right direction" in connection with Salvadoran government plans to hold elections next March for an assembly to draft a new constitution and assume legislative powers.
Ambassador Deane R. Hinton adds that these elections are "the best political solution that anyone can think of" and that they will "produce a government of a king this country hasn't seen in 50 years."
Whether this forecast proves accurate, his words in San Salvador June 16 were evidence of Washington's continuing support for the political process under way there.
Mr. hinton made that explicit: "We have made perfectly clear the commitment of the United States government to see to it that the junta is not taken over by an armed insurrection supported from Havana."
That, of course, has been Washington's position through the final year of the Carter administration and the early months of the Reagan administration. It lies behind the State Department's much-criticized white paper, issued in February, which charged that the Salvadoran guerrillas, many of whom are Marxists, were being supplied with tons of arms and ammunition by the Cuban and Soviet governments.
In the face of new allegations that the documents in the paper did not support its conclusion, the department late last week admitted that preparation of the report had been "hasty" and "sloppy in some ways."
But Reagan administration officials added that the conclusions in the report were, indeed, accurate and supported not only by the evidence in the report, but also by additional unspecified electronic and human sources.
The criticism, however, continued this week, as did a crescendo of political protest in the US and elsewhere over the Salvadoran government's human-rights record.
Ambassador Hinton noted this record, admitting that the human-rights situation in El Salvador "is bad and continues to be bad."
Nevertheless, he added, "It is better than it was," and he promised to continue pressing the government on the issue, and in particular on cases involving US citizens. "But I will do it quietly, without planning any news conferences to denounce anything or anybody."
That is an essential difference between the Carter administration's approach and that of the Reagan administration. The ambassador commented, however, the difference is one "of degree and maybe of method."
Another difference is the Reagan administration's commitment of US military advisers to the Salvadoran government. President Reagan authorized sending 56 US military men to El Salvador to help train that country's armed forces. Last week, six of the advisers were withdrawn, their missions completed. Another six are due out next week and slow withdrawal of the others is anticipated.
Washington is considering new militar y aid, but so far no none has been authorized.