Human Rights Abuses Deterred by Reagan / Says Abrams

Article excerpt

The Reagan Administration's policy of durable improvements in Latin American has served as a deterrent to human rights abuses, said Elliott Abrams Thursday.

Abrams, U.S. assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, spoke at the University of Oklahoma.

In contrast to the Carter Administration which focused on human rights, the Reagan Administration has had a clear and unifying policy with vigorous and effective focus on democracy, he said.

In 1981, 750 death squad murders a month took place in El Salvador, he said. Now the death figures have dropped to 2-4 percent of that, or about 30, he said.

Through the commitment of President Napoleon Duarte, El Salvador now has a special investigative and forensic unit to investigate crimes, he said.

Besides the reduction in the level of violence, Abrams said El Salvador now has a spectrum of parties from "pretty far left to right."

Supporters of Amnesty International USA and other students opposed to current American policy in Latin America quietly demonstrated outside of Holmberg Hall where Abrams spoke.

By sending clear messages to Latin American countries, the United States has also reduced the threat of political coups, Abrams said.

"In seven years and five weeks there have been no successful coups under an elected civilian president," he said.

The strong position of the United States may well have had a role in preventing a coup in Guatemala in May 1988, he said.

One of the most important contributions of the Reagan Administration's Latin America policy was that it "delegitimitized the importance of military dictatorship." "This was something only a conservative Republican Administration can do," he said. …