In early December in Washington 12 conservative groups paid tribute to the leader of El Salvador’s extreme right, Robert D’Aubuisson, a man called a “pathological killer” by a former US ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White. This and other recent events point to a cozy relationship between the New Right and that element in Central America which uses death squads to exterminate its foes.
No name connotes right-wing violence more than that of D’Aubuisson, who was purged from the Salvadoran army in October 1979. Five months later, Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose sermons were roll calls of death-squad victims, was gunned down during a Mass. Three months after that, D’Aubuisson was arrested for treason in the midst of organizing a coup d’etat. On his bodyguard police found records of D’Aubuisson’s operations, including the name and phone number of the hit man believed to be Archbishop Romero’s assassin.
Arrested with D’Aubuisson and his bodyguard were two men who later ordered the killing of two US labor advisers and El Salvador’s chief land-reform official. Since they were fingered in the triple murder, D’Aubuisson has referred to his right-hand men as “national heroes” and said, “I am honored to be their friends.”
This is the Roberto D’Aubuisson whom New Right guru Jesse Helms describes as a “deeply religious man.” Last spring Helms blasted the US government, our ambassador to El Salvador in particular, for backing D’Aubuisson’s moderate rival in El Salvador’s presidential election. Ambassador Pickering’s name has since been on the death-squad hit list.
On Dec. 4, conservatives gave the same D’Aubuisson a plaque expressing “appreciation for his efforts and accomplishments in El Salvador.” Sponsors included Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and the Washington Times. Also represented were the Richard A. Viguerie Co., the Conservative Caucus, the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress and the National Council for Better Education – the last three creations of Howard Phillips, Paul Weyrich and Terry Dolan. With Viguerie they are the Big Four of the New Right.
The link between North America’s New Right and Central America’s extreme right is well established. In April 1980, for example, Howard Phillips and officials of the Moral Majority and American Conservative Union were flown to Guatemala by the “Guatemalan Freedom Foundation.” A right-wing businessmen’s lobby, the foundation’s members include a landowner who lent the CIA his ranch as a training base for its invasion of Cuba, and John Trotter, a lawyer from Texas. Trotter owned Guatemala’s Coca Cola franchise at a time when three of its union leaders were murdered during labor-management strife.
Upon his return, Howard Phillips reported that “Guatemala has a brilliant future, if the policy of the United States does not ruin it” – an obvious stab at President Carter’s conditioning of US aid upon respect for human rights.
Also paying hommage [sic] to D’Aubuisson was Young Americans for Freedom, a campus group founded in 1960 by William F. Buckley Jr. D’Aubuisson was YAF’s guest speaker the next evening at Georgetown University. A YAF official told the Washington Post his group had arranged the appearance because D’Aubuisson “hasn’t had a fair shake” from the US media. “Death squads have a very negative connotation. He’s not been able to get across the message of free enterprise, anticommunism, freedom of exports and imports.”
If that sounds like the babble of naïve youth, consider these words of wisdom from William F. Buckley himself, taken from a guest editorial in last May’s Soldier of Fortune, a magazine for mercenaries:
“What one must guard against is the notion that our alliance with the government of El Salvador is a function of its civilized deportment … We are in El Salvador because its government, for all its impurities, is geopolitically allied with us in the great cosmic effort, however disheveled, to give freedom and democracy and decency a change against the communist monolith. To suggest that US support should be contingent on El Salvador’s regulation of its grisly death squads is, simply, to miss the point.”
The point, it would seem, is to note the New Right’s kinship with the masterminds of death squads.