Referendums set in Bay State on US role in Central America
A coalition of peace activists in eastern Massachusetts is looking to send a message to Washington this election day that the United States should end its military involvement in Central America.
The Central America Referendum Campaign is aimed at gaining wide support for a question that will appear Nov. 6 on the ballots in 41 state House of Representatives districts in the Greater Boston area.
Boston organizers say they seek to generate a national debate over US policy in Central America and mobilize activists in support of their viewpoint.
''Activists had the example of the nuclear freeze movement, which took an issue and made it important to a lot of people and put it on the national agenda ,'' says Charles Glazier of the referendum campaign.
''We wanted to get activists excited about this, to present information and to encourage discussion.''
The effort has been endorsed by a number of prominent Massachusetts Democrats , including Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Lt. Gov. John Kerry, state Rep. Thomas Gallagher of Boston, and US Congressmen James M. Shannon, Gerry E. Studds, and Edward J. Markey.
The referendum calls for:
* Withdrawing all US troops and advisers from El Salvador and Honduras.
* Ending all US military aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
* Stopping all US aid to forces trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.
* Redirecting funds used for those purposes to create jobs and improve services in the US.
According to published estimates, in early 1984 there were 33 US military trainers in El Salvador and roughly 1,700 US military personnel in Honduras.
US military aid in 1984 totaled roughly $196.5 million to El Salvador, $77 million to Honduras, and $4.5 million to Guatemala.
US aid to rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government was set at $24 million in 1984.
Organizers estimate that roughly a fourth of the Massachusetts electorate will be able to vote on the issue. According to Dawn Belkin of the referendum campaign, it will be the largest referendum on US involvement in Central America held in the US.
Similar referendum questions were approved last year by voters in several US cities, including San Francisco; Boulder, Colo.; and Seattle, Wash.