The State Department said today it is prepared to support the Salvadoran government that emerges from Sunday’s national election--but only so long as it respects democracy and protects human rights.
Department spokesman Charles E. Redman praised the Salvadoran people for having braved “violence and terror” by leftist guerrillas who, he said, tried harder to disrupt Sunday’s balloting than in any other election in seven years.
“Our position is that we support the democratic process, that we are prepared to support the person who emerges from that democratic process,” Redman said.
“Our relationship with that new government will depend on its adherence to democracy and respect for human rights, the twin pillars of our approach to El Salvador.” The candidate of the rightist Nationalist Republican Alliance party, Alfredo Cristiani, has claimed victory.
State Department Sit-In
Meanwhile, 48 people were arrested at a State Department sit-in protesting the Salvadoran vote as unfair.
There were still no official results today, but Cristiani told a news conference Sunday night that his party was leading with more than 50% of the vote.
The State Department demonstrators, from a coalition of left-leaning groups opposed to U.S. backing of El Salvador’s government, arrived at the diplomatic entrance shortly after 8 a.m. and presented a protest petition to officials, demonstration organizer Ellen Braune told reporters.
Shortly thereafter, several dozen demonstrators linked arms to block the entrance and sat down on the front sidewalk, according to witnesses.
Police arrived with four trucks and began seizing and handcuffing the protesters and bundling them into the vehicles.
Among those arrested was the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, a once-prominent foe of the Vietnam War who heads Sane-Freeze, one of the country’s largest peace groups.
In New York, nine policemen were injured and 122 people were arrested today as demonstrators blocked entrances to a federal office building in a protest against U.S. policy in El Salvador. The protest was organized by the New York Coalition to Stop the War in El Salvador.
For almost an hour, hundreds of demonstrators blocked entrances to 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan, where the FBI and the U.S. immigration authorities have their offices. Police said nine officers were injured trying to remove demonstrators and that several of the injured officers suffered broken fingers.
The United States has sent $3.5 billion in military and economic aid to the government during its nine-year-old war with leftist rebels that has left 70,000 dead, mostly civilians.
U.S. policy in El Salvador has been aimed at shoring up a centrist government represented by the Christian Democrats and President Jose Napoleon Duarte, who is dying of liver cancer and who leaves office June 1.
In San Francisco, 35 people were arrested and others were clubbed this morning when a crowd of about 500 people protesting the elections in El Salvador scuffled with police outside the Federal Building.
Members of the crowd chanted, “Stop the War! U.S. Out of El Salvador!,” as they tried to block entrances to the 20-story building in the city’s Civic Center.