US and Central America -- `truth in advertising'

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.

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.

The May 9 letters of Kenneth A. Wilson, Laura Blacklow, and Rev. Conley A. Zomermaand reflect an unfortunate tendency to deny the Marxist-Leninist character of Nicaragua's Sandinista regime. The Sandinistas have boasted of their dedication to Marxism-Leninism. Many of their defenders in the US are either unwilling to accept such candor or unaware of what the Sandinistas have themselves said. Here are some examples of the Sandinistas' truth in advertising. Marxism-Leninism: In a 1981 speech, Defense Minister Humberto Ortega said, ``Our doctrine is Marxism-Leninism.'' In December 1984, Newsweek quoted Interior Minister Thomas Borge: ``You cannot be a true revolutionary in Latin America without being a Marxist-Leninist.'' Comandante Bayardo Arce, chief of the Political Committee of the Sandinista Party, said in a May 1984 speech that the November elections would offer the Sandinista Party the opportunity ``to gain . . . positive benefits: the unity of the Marxist-Leninists of Nicaragua.''

Private sector: The private sector has been crippled by the selective application of monetary and labor laws. The Sandinistas realize the necessity of maintaining the appearance of an independent private sector. Their actual views, however, are best reflected by the loquacious Bayardo Arce, who observed in May 1984 that ``for us it is useful, for example, to be able to display an entrepreneurial class and private production in the mixed economy system we promulgated while we move ahead in strategic ways. The important thing is that the entrepreneurial class no longer controls all the means to reproduce itself. It no longer controls the banks, foreign trade, or the source of foreign exchange. Therefore, any investment project in our country belongs to the state. The bourgeoisie no longer invests -- it subsists.''

Free elections: In their defense of the Nicaraguan elections, Mr. Wilson and Ms. Blacklow ignore the all-pervasive climate of intimidation created by the Sandinista Party, which both ``rules'' and governs. Neighborhood spying committees control food rationing, and he who did not vote was not likely to eat. Perhaps both should reread the Nov. 7, 1985, editorial of the New York Times, which observed that ``only the naive believe legitimizing proof of the Sandinistas' popularity.''

Religious freedom: Reverend Zomermaand says the Roman Catholic Church is freer in Nicaragua than in El Salvador or Guatemala. This is not a view shared by Nicaragua's archbishop, [Miguel Cardinal] Obando y Bravo, who said in 1984 that he was dealing with a government that was an ``enemy of the church.'' Sandinista actions such as humiliating priests in public, attempting to force Marxism-Leninism into the Catholic school curriculum, and having mobs attack Catholic churches affirm the accuracy of the archbishop's words.

The US is not pushing Nicaragua into Soviet arms, nor did we push Cuba. The Sandinistas set a definite course toward Moscow in 1979, just as Fidel Castro did in 1959. Castro has been as frank in the past about his political beliefs as the Sandinistas are at present. He told a Spanish interviewer in January 1984 that US hostility was not a major factor in his move toward the Soviet Union. ``Inexorably,'' he said, ``we considered ourselves to be Marxist-Leninists.'' Well-meaning defenders of Castro and the Sandinistas may be uncomfortable hearing such words, but that is the political reality. Lawrence L. Tracy, Colonel, US Army Office of Latin America Public Diplomacy Department of State, Washington

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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