The Reagan administration may have dropped El Salvador as a burning East-West issue, but the ordeal of the Salvadorans continues. They not only face the violence of leftist guerrillas. They also face what US Ambassador Hinton calls the "continuing serious problem" of violence by security forces of the Duarte government backed by the United States. Washington ought to do its part to ease the Salvadorans' ordeal by throwing its diplomatic weight behind curbing this violence.
The junta headed by President Duarte is supposed to be a force for moderation between the extreme left and the right-wing businessmen whom Mr. Duarte has described as a greater threat to it. But the longer the security forces' violence is wreaked on peasants and other civilians the less worthy of support the government appears to be, and the more insensitive the US appears in supporting it. The junta must realize that Washington cannot indefinitely prop up a government that draws this kind of response from a clergyman on the scene:
"I don't understand how governments that are called communist, such as Poland and Nicaragua, don't kill workers and priests, but this government, which calls itself Christian, has killed so many."
Just this weekend came the report of a mass murder of 28 peasants allegedly by government security forces. There was also a report of evidence suggesting the murder of four US missionaries last December may have been a planned military operation rather than an impulsive act by soldiers at a roadblock. Hundreds of men, women, and children were abruptly forced to leave a longsettled refugee camp because, according to soldiers, the army wanted it for a base.
It is important to get to the bossom of such stories, to know just what kind of government US taxpayers are supporting. At the same time it is important to continue the degree of developmental aid to ameliorate the economic ordeal that goes on, violence or not.
A step forward in this respect for the whole Caribbean basin was taken over the weekend when representatives of the US, Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela met in Nassau. They agreed to aid in the economic and social development of countries in the area without regard to political or military interests. Each country would formulate its own programs but with no automatic exclusions or inclusions. It seemed to indicate a tempering of the Reagan administration's "strategic consensus" approach based on opposition to the Soviet Union and its clients. The whole free world's guard must remain up in relation to Moscow, but that purpose is often served by simply helping countries to help themselves, thus becoming less vulnerable to outside politi cal forces.