Appendices: Foreign Military Assistance to El Salvador

September 25, 2007

"Extremist elements in El Salvador retain capability to initiate limited attacks on public order, but are not ex- pected to seriously intimidate the political stability of this country, nor to severely tax the (security) forces' resources." (U.S. Agency for International Develop- ment, 1974)'
In the six years since this statement was made, "extremist elements" in El Salvador have grown to represent a significant political force, and "political stability" has given way to violent polarization and potential civil war. In one measure designed to stop El Salvador from becoming Central America's "second Nicaragua," U.S. officials have pro- posed a package of emergency economic and military aid to that country's civilian-military ruling coalition. Military assistance in the amount of $11.5 million--including arms credits, training grants, and the placing of U.S. military training teams in El Salvador--is intended to bolster the faltering coalition that has failed to earn popular sup- port, and which recently declared a state of seige in an attempt to impose order.
This new military assistance proposal- equivalent to 69% of all military aid El Salvador has received since 1950 -represents a dramatic increase in U.S. involvement with El Salvador's security forces. Between Fiscal Years 1950 and 1979, U.S. security assistance totaled $16.7 million, a fraction of that pro- vided to neighboring Guatemala and Nicaragua.2 Arms credits totaled $3.5 million, and nearly 2,000 Salvadorean of- ficers were trained in such areas as Urban
Counterinsurgency, Military Intelligence,
Basic Combat and Counterinsurgency, and
Basic Officer Preparation.3
The impact of U.S. military assistance in a
country the size of El Salvador goes beyond
what the dollar amounts and training figures
alone would indicate. In a country ruled by
the military since 1931,- U.S. aid has
strengthened military institutions, and has
provided for close U.S. ties with what the U.S.
Department of Defense once called "the coun-
try's most important political force."'"
From the turn of the century until the endMarlApr 1980
of World War II, Chilean officers directed
military training and operations for El
Salvador's armed forces; Chileans founded
the first War College and directed its opera-
tions until 1957. U.S. training and doctrine
became increasingly important after the war,
when El Salvador received its first U.S. grants
under the Military Assistance Program, as
well as the first U.S. military mission.
The main contingents of El Salvador's
armed forces-the Army, Navy, and Air
Force--total more than 7,000 men. In addi-
tion, El Salvador relies on three major inter-
nal security forces: the National Guard (2,500
men) operating in urban areas and responsi-
ble for political control over the countryside;
the National Police and the Treasury Police
(2,600 altogether) responsible primarily for
"law and order" in the cities. All work in close
collaboration with the military, and often are
commanded by Army officers.5
To upgrade El Salvador's police and inter-
nal security network, the United States in-
itiated a Public Safety program in 1957,
under the auspices of the Agency for Interna-
tional Development (AID). Between 1957 and
the program's termination in 1974, the U.S.
Office of Public Safety (OPS) spent a total of
$2.1 million to train Salvadorean police and
to provide arms, communications equipment,
transport vehicles and riot control gear. 6
Public Safety advisers reorganized the
police academy, trained and equipped special
riot control units in the National Police and
National Guard, created a bomb-handling
squad to investigate "terrorist activities," cen-
tralized the police records bureau, and set up
a teletype system linking all six of the Central
American republics. Key positions in the
Salvadorean security establishment were often
filled by graduates of OPS training, including
those brought to Washington D.C. for studies
at the International Police Academy.
When Congress ended the OPS program in
1974, AID analysts concluded that ". . . the
National Police ... has advanced from a
non-descript, cuartel-bound group of poorly
trained men to a well-disciplined, well-
trained and respected uniformed corps. It has
a good riot control capability, good in-
vestigative capability, good records, and fair
communications and mobility."''
Against this bland assessment stands the
human rights record of El Salvador's security
forces, many of whose members have par-
ticipated in the activities of right-wing
paramilitary units such as ORDEN, the
White Warriors Union (UGB), FALANGE,
and the Organization for the Liberation from
Communism (OLC). According to the most
recent report of the Organization of
American States' Inter-American Human
Rights Commission, ". . . many persons have
died as a result of the security bodies and of
the official paramilitary organization
(ORDEN) . . . (they) have committed torture
and physical and psychological mistreatment
in many cases . . . the security bodies have
maintained secret places of detention , where
some persons whose capture and imprison-
ment have been denied by the government,
were deprived of liberty under extremely
cruel and inhuman conditions."8
Until the mid-1970s, El Salvador's armed
forces were equipped primarily with surplus
U.S. equipment of World War II1 vintage. In
1975, however, the Israeli government, pur-
suing an aggressive sales campaign
throughout Central America, became a ma-
jor supplier of arms to El Salvador. Israeli
sales of 18 refurbished French fighter-
bombers and six trainers provided the first jet
aircraft to be flown by the Salvadorean Air
Force. Since 1975, France has sold additional
aircraft trainers and light tanks, and Brazil
has sold 12 reconnaissance planes. (See
In 1977, El Salvador joined ranks with
Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala in rejecting
proposed U.S. military assistance, in protest
over U.S. criticism of human rights violations
in those countries. No new requests for
assistance to Salvador were made in Fiscal
Years 1979 or 1980, although deliveries of
previously authorized equipment and training
have amounted to at least $1 million since
Arms sales by private U.S. firms, which
must be licensed by the State Department's
Office of Munitions Control, have totaled
$2.1 million since FY 1971.9
29NACLA Report
Barely three weeks after the installation of
a new civilian-military junta on October 15,
1979, the U.S. government authorized a sale
of over $200,000 worth of tear gas, gas masks
and bulletproof vests to security forces in El
Salvador. Three days later, a six-man U.S.
military training team arrived for one week to
train the troops in riot control.' 0
While promoted as a "humanitarian"
gesture, the sales of "non-lethal" equipment
prompted an opposite effect. In a February
letter to President Carter, Archbishop Romero,
of El Salvador charged that ". . . the security
forces, with better personal protection and ef-
fectiveness, have repressed the people even
more violently, using deadly weapons."
The Carter Administration is currently re-
questing a reprogramming of FY 1980 funds
for military assistance to El Salvador. Three
hundred thousand dollars in training grants
were approved late in December, and will go
primarily to purchase U.S. Mobile Training
Teams. A request for an additional $5.7
million in Foreign Military Sales credits was
forwarded to Congress on March 3, 1980.12
Requests for FY 1981 include $5 million in
new Foreign Military Sales credits and $0.5
million in new training grants. This brings
proposed military assistance (reprograming
plus new funds) to a total of $11.5 million.
Even without this new money, El Salvador still
has $472,000 in funds "in the pipeline" from
authorizations from previous years. '
Perhaps the most provocative aspect of the
Administration's plan is the proposal to place
three 12-man Army Mobile Training Teams
in El Salvador for a period of 8 to 12 weeks.
The teams, which would be paid for through
the International Military Education and
Training Program, would instruct Army
batallions on a rotating basis in such areas as
intelligence, logistics, and communications. 4
The placing of U.S. military personnel in
such a volatile atmosphere could well lead to
escalating commitments to El Salvador's
faltering leaders.
About the Author
Cindy Arnson is an Associate of the Institute
for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.
Seller Quantity and Item Delivery
U.S. 3 Douglas C-47 transport aircraft (ex-USAF) 1974
France 12 refurbished AMX-13 light tanks w/75mm cannon 1974
Israel 25 IAI-201 Arava STOL transport aircraft 1974-79
Israel 200 9mm UZI submachine guns 1974-77
Israel 200 80mm rocket launchers 1974-77
U.S. 1 C-118 aircraft 1975
Israel 18 refurbished Dassault Ouragan fighter bombers 1975
Israel 6 IAl Fouga Magister trainer aircraft 1975
U.S. 4 Bell UH-1H utility helicopters 1976
France 3 Dassault Fouga Magister trainers
(sold by Aerospatiale) 1978
Brazil 12 EMBRAER EMB-111 land and maritime patrol
aircraft 6 deliv. 1978
Sources: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook, World Armaments and Disarma-
ment, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979; U.S. Department of Defense, Congressional Presentation
Document: Security Assistance Fiscal Year 1976; International Institute for Strategic Studies, The
Military Balance, 1975-76; U.S. House of Representatives, Hearings, Foreign Assistance Legislation
FY 1980-1981, Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, Part III, p. 84.
1. U.S. Agency for International Development,
Phaseout Study of the Public Safety Program,
Washington, D.C., 1974, p. 2.
2. U.S. Department of Defense, Foreign Military
Sales and Military Assistance Facts, Washington,
3. Michael Klare, Supplying Repression, Institute for
Policy Studies, Washington, D.C., 1977, p. 38.
4. U.S. Department of Defense, Congressional
Presentation Document: Security Assistance Fiscal Year
1979, Washington, D.C., 1978.
5. Howard Blutstein, ed., Area Handbook on El
Salvador, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C., 1971, pp. 191-212.
6. U.S. Agency for International Development. op.
7. Ibid., p. 3.
8. Organization of American States. Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, Report on the Situation
of Human Rights in El Salvador, Washington, D.C.,
1979, p. 165.
9. U.S. Department of Defense, Foreign Military
Sales ... , op. cit. p. 16.
10. U.S. Department of State, telephone interview,
Feb. 4. 1980.
II. Quoted in the Washington Post, February 19,
12. U.S. Departmentof State, telephone interview,
March 2, 1980.
13. U.S. Department of Defense, Foreign Military
Sales . . . ob. cit.
14, U.S. Department of State, telephone interview,
Feb. 4, 1980, and Washington Post, Feb. 14, 1980.

Tags: El Salvador, military aid, arms sales, US foreign policy

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