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'U.S. Policy in Central America'

September 08, 1985

Your editorial (Aug. 29), "Cynical Game," very appropriately concludes that if President Reagan persists in assuming that he knows better than our Latin American allies what is good for them "the United States will remain the major obstacle to peace in Central America." Not only has he refused further direct negotiations with the Sandinistas for a political settlement, but he has also undercut the efforts of the Contadora group of Latin countries to develop a Central American peace treaty, a draft of which Nicaragua had approved.

Reagan's one solution to the unrest in Nicaragua has been the training and arming of some 10,000 to 20,000 dissidents, or contras , to serve as mercenary-surrogates for American troops. And if they should fail in their mission to overthrow the Sandinista government, or force the Communist leaders to cry "Uncle" within the scheduled time limit, it is almost certain that American forces will take over, under the convenient umbrella of "national security."

However, it will be difficult to accept such an excuse when it is noted that Nicaragua is only an underdeveloped, poor little country, whose population and area are less than those of about half of our individual states. Surely, if our surveillance should show that Cuba and/or Russia are stupidly transferring to Nicaragua masses of potentially dangerous offensive equipment we can quickly and easily wipe out all such equipment and installations with a single non-nuclear air strike. This is the "cynical game" we are playing in Nicaragua.

Ironically, our government has been applying completely different policy principles in South Africa. The present situation there is well described by the front-page headlines of The Times (Aug. 29), "Whips, Guns Rout South Africa Marchers." And the Administration's reaction is expressed by the further headline: "U.S. Staying With Its Policy . . . "

In South Africa we give no real support to the large black majority, which is brutally suppressed with killings and widespread imprisonments by the governing white majority. Though freedom from oppression and isolation is the basic goal of their protests, we do not call them "freedom fighters," as Reagan refers to the contra mercenaries.

The apartheid laws and savage repression by the Botha government have been universally condemned by freedom-loving peoples, and even by the Soviets, who can hardly serve as role models for human rights. Yet, Reagan has accepted President Botha's promises of cosmetic changes as proof that his regime is "reformist."

Thus, he insists on staying with his policy of "constructive engagement"--a euphemistic term for wrist-slapping verbal criticism. And so far, he has refused to support nonviolent economic sanctions against the Botha government, as have been proposed in both Houses of Congress and are being applied by a number of our allies.



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