In response to the excellent and accurate column by Susanne Jonas ("Double Standards for Latin American Democracy," Op-Ed Page, Oct. 24), I would like to add a few very important observations that the author didn't have room for.
The keystone to democracy is to stop the killing. Nicaragua is the only country of four Central American countries--Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, that has no death squads and that has eliminated the death penalty since the Sandinistas took power. Its maximum jail sentence is 30 years. A visit to the countryside of Nicaragua for a few days will assure the visitor that the only totalitarians are the Contras, that the Nicaraguan government is surprisingly democratic, particularly under the weight of the U.S. war.
In contrast, Guatemala, El Salvador, and to perhaps a lesser degree, Honduras governments, are the brutal repressors. Compare the outstanding difference in death figures between the three countries and Nicaragua. Nicaragua has lost some 20,000 people since 1981, mostly at the hands of the Contras, mostly civilians. The deaths of the other three countries stand at over 220,000 people, mostly by the death squads and army, mostly civilian.