Reagan claims Salvadoran rights climate improving
The Reagan administration, countering the view of many observers, claims that El Salvador's human rights climate has improved significantly.
In a series of upbeat statements this week, the administration has said the civilian-military junta in El Salvador has begun turning the corner on everything from human rights to land reform.
And in a message to Congress, the administration is certifying that the rights picture in El Salvador has improved enough to allow continuation of United States economic and military support.
''Congress should have no doubt that human rights conditions are improving in El Salvador,'' said an administration spokesman.
''Whatever congressional restraint there may be on aid can be removed without concern.''
But earlier this week, two prominent organizations accused the regime of Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte of a systematic denial of human rights , including dozens of politically motivated murders each week and the widespread use of torture.
In a 275-page report, replete with allegations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Americas Watch Committee (AWC) said human rights violations are not only continuing, but increasing.
It added that the administration should terminate military assistance and sales to the Duarte government until it shows signs of fostering human rights.
The Reagan administration is doing precisely the reverse by certifying to Congress that the human rights picture is improving.
These conflicting views again focus Washington attention on El Salvador after several months in which the escalating crisis in Poland made the headlines and diverted debate from the Salvadoran issue.
''The violations of human rights taking place in El Salvador are not aberrations,'' the joint ACLU-AWC report says. ''Rather, they are selectively directed against those perceived as opposing the country's economic and political system.''
Moreover, the report spotlights the devastation in El Salvador as a result of the civil war which has killed 26,000 Salvadorans during the past two years.
The renewal of the debate over El Salvador comes as the Duarte government moves toward legislative elections March 28.
The US staunchly supports these elections, but the guerrillas, as well as governments such as Mexico, vigorously oppose them on the grounds that talks between the contending sides must come first.
In supporting the vote, which will elect deputies to draft a new constitution for the country, the US says the vote is ''a major step'' on the road to ending the violence that has wracked the country during the past several years.
The newly elected deputies will also decide whether to appoint an interim president or to allow the joint military-civilian junta under President Duarte to continue in power until presidential elections are held, probably in 1983.
The State Department this week made public a statement from last week's Salvadoran Episcopal Conference supporting the March voting as ''a faint glimmer of hope, a possible beginning of a solution to the present crisis in the country.''
As part of its effort to present a more upbeat view of El Salvador than that of many other analysts, the department also issued a strong statement in support of the Duarte government's much-criticized land reform program.
It is ''a remarkable success,'' the department said, despite some obvious ''deficiencies'' and ''implementation problems.''
This view runs counter to a freshly published report that the program is near collapse.
This report states that final legal titles of ownership had been given to fewer than 300 cooperative farms carved out of onetime larger estates.
It also said that only provisional titles had been given out to 15,000 families eligible for smaller plots.
Prepared by the Union Comunal Salvadorena, a peasant labor group with 110,000 members, the report blamed military terror and murder along with bureaucratic inefficiency for the land reform's problems.