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 INTERNAL SECURITY AND THE OPS 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 ARMS SALES 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 chart.) 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 1978. 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 CURRENT U.S. POLICY 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. MAJOR ARMS SALES TO EL SALVADOR 1974-78 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. FOREIGN MILITARY ASSISTANCE 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, D.C,.1979. 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. cit. 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, 1980. 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

Like this article? Support our work. Donate now.