Don W. Lewis made a number of misleading assertions in his column "U.S. Military Assistance to El Salvador Negates Benefits of Economic Aid" (Op-Ed Page, May 16).
Lewis stated that "in November, 1987, the foreign policy caucus of Congress reported that U.S. aid to El Salvador had exceeded that country's own national budget." The Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus to which he referred reported no such thing; such information, however, was contained in a report by three caucus members to the 130-member group.
The report's assertion was incorrect. In fiscal year 1987 (not 1988, as Lewis states), El Salvador raised some $580 million by itself through taxation and other means. The U.S. provided El Salvador $457 million in economic assistance--only about two-thirds of which was applied to the country's budget. The rest funded relief agencies, credit institutions and other private groups that provide services directly to the Salvadoran people.
Although still lower than the government of El Salvador's own contribution, the U.S. contribution to the budget was unusually high because of two extraordinary factors. First, the level was skewed by a one-time donation of $128 million to help the country recover from a devastating 1986 earthquake. Second, the devaluation of the Salvadoran currency by half in 1986 effectively reduced El Salvador's contribution to the national budget when expressed in dollars.