adoption. Both women continued to reside in the U.S. “I do not regret helping these two women,” said Remer-Thamert, who was fired from his job with the state human services department the day the indictments were announced. “We’re trying to provide their children with a better life than the poverty and strife in El Salvador. The help I provided them in 1986 was given in the spirit of Christian charity during the time when [former] Governor Anaya had declared our state a sanctuary.” Martinez, who covers religious news, said, “The response of mainline Christian denominations to the strife in Central America has been one of the most important stories of this decade. I have written about this time and time again. I fear these charges represent an attempt to intimidate reporters who make an effort to seek out information about the victims of the violence in Central America and the people who help them.” Martinez did not write articles about the two Salvadoran women. But she has written a poem to be published as part of a collection which Martinez and her attorney fear will be subpoenaed and become evidence against her in the trial. Entitled “Nativity: for Two Salvadoran Women, 1986-1987,” the poem follows: Your eyes, large as Canada, welcome this stranger. We meet in a Juarez train station where you sat hours, your offspring blooming in you like cactus fruit, dresses stained where breasts leak, panties in purses tagged “Hecho in El Salavdor,” your belt, like equators, marks north from south, borders I cannot cross, for I am a North American reporter, pen and notebook, the tools of my tribe, distance us though in any other era I might press a stethoscope to your wombs, hear the symphony of the unborn, finger forth infants to light, wipe afterbirth, cut cords. “It is impossible to raise a child in that country. ” Sisters, I am no saint. Just a woman who happens to be a reporter, a reporter who happens to be a woman, squat in a forest, peeing on pine needles, watching you vomit morning sickness, a sickness infinite as the war in El Salvador, a sickness my pen and notebook will not ease. Tell me, iPor que estan aqui? how did you cross over? in my country we sing of a baby in a manger, finance death squads, IN EL SALVADOR, American counterinsurgency policy is making life for the general populace more and more untenable. The country has become a virtual province of the U.S., which is now spending more for aid projects in El Salvador \($608 itself spends. Our commitment in El Salvador is supposedly in the name of agricultural reform, an improved economy, and a centrist democracy. Yet as a recent report, Bankrolling Failure, by the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus of the Congress shows, in 1987 three dollars in U.S. aid were devoted to the Salvador war for every dollar used to address its root causes. In recent months both per capita income and overall productivity have been on the decline. Most Salvadorans live in outright poverty. At the same time, despite massive increases in U.S. military aid, rebel attacks have increased. Meanwhile, U.S. economic aid is being transformed into a military program that terrorizes the civilian populace. U.S. law bans the use of economic and food aid for “military or paramilitary purposes,” but Congressional investigators obtained the text of an agreement signed by President Salvador Duarte, the Salvadoran minister of defense, and the army chief of staff, setting up a counterinsurgency campaign called “United to Rebuild.” The agreement gives military commanders explicit authority over the activities of the civilian agency which conducts the U.S.-funded projects for the program. Just like in Vietnam, the U.S. is promoting a counterinsurgency campaign that includes “civic action” assistance to the rural peasantry and the creation of local “civil defense” forces to patrol and inform on rebel movements. Most of the local people do not want to serve in the patrols for fear or retaliation by the rebels, who assassinate civil defense personnel and civilians suspected of informing the army about rebel civilian operations. But local military commanders use the threat of withholding U.S. economic aid, which they control, to force civilians to participate. In line with the recommendations of a secret Pentagon panel headed by retired General John Singlaub in 1983, the Reagan administration has shied away from a hightech air war in El Salvador and instead sought to involve the Salvadoran airforce in pinpoint attacks that employ relatively low-level technology. Felix Rodriguez, the former CIA agent who helped run the contra air supply system, originally had gone to El Salvador in 1986 to work with the air force in setting up such a system. Modeled on American experiences in Vietnam, the Salvadoran system involves a combination of intelligence and air strikes. Intelligence operatives are sent into areas of likely rebel concentrations. When rebel units are discovered, the covert agents radio their position to home base. But the guerrillas have adapted to the new form of warfare, moving with greater stealth, in smaller units, opening fronts in urban areas, and increasing small unit attacks. They have also introduced a devastating new weapon in the form of a handmade antipersonnel mine as protection from ground pursuit. The mines are produced locally from such materials as bleach, sugar, rocks, standard blasting caps, and, to promote infection in the wounds, a little shit. The proliferation of mines has forced development projects to stop using plastic pipes or water lines because the rebels steal them and use them for mines that evade metal detectors. The war has also seriously affected agricultural production. Statistics from the U.S. Agency for International Development show a 17 percent drop in per capita production of food crops from 1980 to 1985. Since the war began, coffee and cotton production, two major export crops, declined by one half. “The war’s effects have been felt most heavily by El Salvador’s poor majority,” say the authors of Bankrolling Failure. “Half a million people displaced by the war, or 10 percent of the population, live in squalor in refugee and squatter camps. Because of the stagnant economy, underand unemployment has climbed to 50 percent, some 10 times its prewar level. The UN recorded a 30 percent cut in per capita consumption in the first four years of the war, creating what AID called a `precipitous’ decline in living standards among low-income Salvadorans. The decline has continued: the UN reports that `workers’ purchasing power’ fell 23 percent in 1985 alone, and an unprecedented 32 percent rate of inflation in 1986 further eroded income for the poor.” According to AID, 27 percent of all the children under five are malnourished. Only one out of every four women receives prenatal care. Infant mortality rose by a staggering 36 percent in 1986 to 91 deaths in the first year for every thousand births. There are only 3.4 doctors for every 10,000 people. Half the population has no access to safe drinking water or toilets. The leading cause of death is intestinal infection, and the leading illnesses are parasitism and diarrhea. The war has led to the abandonment of 1,000 schools. AID reports that over 650,000, or roughly half of all elementary school children, are not in school. And the war, funded by U.S. taxpayers, goes on. L1 how to write of this shame, of the children you chose to save? “It is impossible to raise a child in that country . . . . ” HEARTS AND MINDS THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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