Salvadoran Labor Practices and US Trade

As legal counsel for the government of El Salvador, we read with interest the opinion-page article ``End El Salvador's Trade Preferences,'' April 8. The author claims that El Salvador should lose its duty-free status on imports of its merchandise into the US because the country continues to violate workers' rights. This is based upon incorrect and incomplete facts, and amounts to little more than passe' liberal rhetoric. First, the most glaring omission in the article is the failure to point out that El Salvador's labor conditions have already been the subject of US State Department investigation. The State Department found in essence that El Salvador does not violate workers' rights.

Second, the author fails to mention that El Salvador is a country at war. To further their ends, leftist guerrillas known as the FMLN have infiltrated various labor organizations in an effort to foment violence and destruction to the evolving democracy in El Salvador. Despite this, El Salvador continues not only to respect workers' rights, but new reforms are under way - as encouraged by President Cristiani's progressive administration.

Third, the author's view of El Salvador and Latin America is shortsighted. Were the US to cut off trade benefits to this poor country, this would undermine its economy and throw El Salvador into bankruptcy. Under such conditions, widespread unemployment would result and a Marxist-Leninist regime would undoubtedly be installed. Given recent American successes in promoting and strengthening democratically elected governments in Nicaragua, Panama, and other countries in Central America, do we really want t o create another severe geopolitical problem in the region, just at a time when the light at the end of the democratic tunnel is near?

Finally, while the article may sound good to liberals who recently have lost much of their battle against the foreign policies of the US administration (the success in the Persian Gulf is a good example), it doesn't square with the facts, with sound US foreign foreign policy, or (ironically) with the interests of non-FMLN trade unionists in El Salvador. To the contrary, a continuation of US duty-free treatment for goods from El Salvador will strengthen the hand of President Cristiani to conclude a peace between the violent forces of the extreme right and left. This in turn will allow this war-torn country to move into an era of eventual economic prosperity.

Larry Klayman and Frederick Sujat, Klayman & Associates, P.C., Washington

In the opinion-page article "US Holds to Old Habits in Salvador," March 18, the author charges that the administration's policy is out of step with "the realities of El Salvador." US support for the elected government of El Salvador is very much in line with the country's realities. One reality is the strong showing in the March 10 legislative elections by leftist parties formerly affiliated with the FMLN guerrillas. This demonstration of the Salvadoran political system's openness and the Salvadoran people's rejection of violence in turn holds out real hope for an early settlement in the UN-mediated peace talks.

Another reality is the opening and flexibility of the Salvadoran government and its armed forces in pursuit of a negotiated settlement over the past year, in the face of frequent FMLN stalling tactics and military offensives. All the key issues, including military reform, are on the table. Prospects for a negotiated settlement are better than ever.

The US government supports the democratically elected government of President Cristiani in its efforts to defend itself against FMLN attacks meant to overthrow it by military force. The US fully supports the efforts to end the conflict through negotiations and a political solution.

The FMLN needs to be convinced that it cannot achieve a military victory and instead must negotiate seriously. That is Salvadoran reality.

Joseph G. Sullivan, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, US Department of State, Washington

Doing the hard work of peace Good for the Monitor for the front-page article "Baker Spins Fragile Diplomatic Web in Mideast Peace Quest," March 18, in which the writer gives a clear and concise statement of an important, too-often-overlooked fact: "building peace is more difficult than making war...."

In the midst of support for the American troops and president, we should not forget to celebrate those who devote themselves to the harder task.

Alice Arndt, Houston

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