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Justice & The Generals
El Salvador
Around the World
About the Film
El Salvador - The Debate
Introduction Timeline The People The Trials The Debate Your View
What's Your View?
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The Debate Question
Rep. Henry J. Hyde
Photo of Rep. Henry J. Hyde
Rep. Barbara Mikulski
Photo of Rep. Barbara Mikulski

After briefly suspending aid to El Salvador, President Carter reinstated it shortly before leaving office. President Reagan and his administration strongly supported the right-wing Salvadoran government, in no small part because of the leftist revolution in Nicaragua.

To many, the desire to prevent a "domino effect" of communist expansion trumped reports of human-rights abuses. In July 1982, Representative Henry Hyde, Republican of Illinois, articulated this concern: "The perfect is the enemy of the good. Who will take over if this government fails?" Hyde also implied that he saw a moral double-standard; the U.S. gave aid to other nations with imperfect records on human rights. He argued, "I just wish we could be more evenhanded in our demands for human rights from these countries."

During the early 1980s the U.S. Congress debated whether or not to give financial aid to the military government in El Salvador. Many advocacy groups and politicians, citing rampant human-rights violations, argued against funding the government and its "death squads."

One of the most prominent opponents of U.S. aid to El Salvador was Representative (now Senator) Barbara Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland. In February 1981, she and two other members of Congress, after a visit to Central America, provided further evidence of atrocities committed by right-wing forces. Mikulski reported that "In each and every conversation [with Salvadoran civilian refugees], it was verified that the military aid from the United States was aiding and abetting the killing and torture of innocent people."