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Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Mr. Gastil.
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH T. ELDRIDGE, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON
Mr. ELDRIDGE. Thank you. I am going to try to exercise enormous discipline and be brief.
My name is Joe Eldridge. I am director of the Washington office on Latin America. It is a human rights advocacy organization supported by about 50 different religious organizations, all of whom have some involvement, some mission concerns for Latin America. So my comments are related exclusively to Latin America.
I want to congratulate this committee. I think this committee's role in the establishment of human rights as a principle guiding U.S. foreign policy has been very significant, and we celebrate your chairmanship and look forward to continuing to work with you.
Very briefly I want to address the question of the State Department's relationship to its aid policies. Among the areas reviewed by the staff were the country reports, section 502B, section 116, and section 701 in the country specific legislation. After this inventory and evaluation of the present administration's performance, we concluded that the balance sheet for Latin America very frankly has been pretty discouraging.
The human rights country reports, I think, are another public manifestation that human rights is and should be deeply rooted in the institutional life and diplomacy of this country, and whatever awkwardness our Embassies undergo in collecting the data is more than offset by the sensitivity to human rights this exercise engenders. I think it is a useful discipline and it has been extremely helpful.
Without going into great detail, I would say that it appears that the administration's foreign policy agenda determined in many instances their evaluation of the human rights situation in a variety of the countries and not the other way around. I think that has been amply described by the previous panel of witnesses.
Section 502B talks about restricting military aid to countries whose governments engaged in a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights. And, yet, U.S. military assistance, arms sales and economic support funds have continued to countries which, by most independent organizations, seem to be transgressor governments and involved in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Guatemala and Haiti immediately are two important examples.
Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act requires that all economic assistance be terminated to governments engaging in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized standards of human rights, et cetera, unless such aid directly benefits the needy. Congress approved this legislation after it became painfully clear in 1975 under the Ford administration that economic aid was being used to pursue strategic geopolitical goals and not in the pursuit of strategic development and relief goals.
I think it was felt at that time that the American people believed that economic aid was destined to provide some relief to the
world's suffering poor and not simply as an adjunct to U.S. foreign policy concerns, and it seems to me that we risk once again politicizing the AID development assistance programs to the extent that those programs seem to be designated primarily for our strategic allies or those countries which are designated as such by the Department of State.
And it seems to me that it betrays the sense that economic aid should in fact be directed to the suffering poor in the countries which have acute problems of poverty and underdevelopment.
Section 701 of the international financial institutions once again suggests that the U.S. executive director oppose loans to governments that engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations, et cetera. And once again we did a little tabulation and found that in many instances the United States has been voting in favor of loans, nonbasic human needs loans, to a variety of countries which by any definition could be included in a list of gross and consistent violators of human rights.
When President Reagan took over, one of the first things that he started to do was to try to rescind the country-specific amendments, especially on Chile and Argentina, which had prohibited arms sales to both of those countries based fundamentally on their human rights conditions. Chile had an additional condition, namely the cooperation by the Chilean Government in an investigation of the murders of Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffit. The administration was successful in rescinding that legislation, although the Congress did in fact move to apply some significant conditions.
So it seems to me that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that this administration regrettably has simply not discharged its human rights obligations adequately. I hasten to add that I am not a lawyer, but as a lay person, if one reads the legislation and compares and looks at the conditions in a variety of countries in Latin America in light of the legislation, I think that the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the administration is not being sufficiently attentive to the legislation that the Congress has approved over a period of years.
As I was preparing for this testimony, I went back and discovered a statement, a speech that then candidate Reagan delivered on November 3, the day before the Presidential elections. He said that:
Let it always be clear that we have no dreams of empire, that we seek no manifest destiny, that we understand the limitations of any one nation's power. Together, let us say what so many long to hear: That America is still united, still strong, still compassionate, still clinging fast to the dream of peace and freedom, still willing to stand by those who are persecuted or alone, for those who suffer from social or religious discrimination, for those who are persecuted, tonight let us speak for them.
I sincerely believe that President Reagan has neglected that pledge, and the spirit of the human rights statutes are blithely ignored. Without a vigorous commitment to human rights and a healthy respect for the legislation embodying this trust, I believe the United States abandons its leadership in the world as the defender of individual freedom. And we could go into a little greater detail about the meaning of this for the Latin American nations and the Latin American hemisphere as a whole if time permits.
A few recommendations: First, regarding definitions, it seems to me that clear standards must be developed defining the "consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." What does that mean? An operational definition of "improvement" could helpfully be developed.
The administration, as has been discussed, has elected not to include social-economic rights as rights, but as conditions instead of rights.
The exceptions to the applications of section 502B, extraordinary circumstances, and 116, loans which directly benefit the needy, should not be stretched beyond recognition to fit any circumstances.
Another suggestion is hidden in the Foreign Assistance Act as a sense of Congress, namely that an interagency committee, which under the Carter administration was referred to as the Christopher committee, should be retained as a high-level interagency review committee, and its mandate we believe should be expanded to cover security assistance as well as economic assistance.
Another suggestion is that human rights legislation perhaps needs to be reviewed and possibly amended so that countries with good human rights records are rewarded. A change of this kind would have a very beneficial side effect, it seems to me.
U.S. bureaucrats and State Department officials responsible for applying the law relish opportunities to approve projects and increase programs. So it might increase and enhance their diligence. Finally, I would say that a larger concern is the increased use of security assistance to accomplish foreign policy objectives and a corresponding decrease in economic development assistance. Overall growth in security assistance to Latin America does not build peace and stability. It bears repeating that only when the underlying economic and political needs are met can true peace and stability be achieved.
It is a big task, but I think with the cooperation of concerned persons in the human rights community, persons in the Congress, I think that we can do our best to address some of these issues.
Thank you very much.
[Mr. Eldridge's prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOSEPH T. ELDRIDGE, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON OFFICE ON LATIN AMERICA
My name is Joseph Eldridge. I am the Director of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy organization established in 1974. I wish to thank this Subcommittee for the opportunity to testify on the present status of the human rights policy. Before presenting my testimony, allow me, Mr. Chairman, once again to congratulate you publicly upon your selection as Chair of the Subcommittee which is the primary locus of concern for human rights vigilance by the Congress. The Congress has played a major role in shaping policies which have had a salutary effect on human rights conditions around the globe.
This statement will focus on several aspects of the current administration's human rights performance. Each of five areas of involvement are briefly reviewed. They include: 1) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 1982; 2) Section 502B; 3) Section 116; 4) Section 401; and 5) country-specific legislation. A short list of recommendations conclude this testimony.
1. Country Reports
On February 8, 1982, the State Department released its Country Reports On Human Rights Practices for 1982. In compliance with Sections 116 (b) and 502 (b) of the amended Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, this report was submitted to the House Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees. As human rights became institutionalized during the middle 1970's, and embedded in the laws and statutes of this country, it was considered necessary to have an official examination of human rights conditions around the world. Since
the Country Reports were first published, they are received every year with great interest by the human rights community, the press, the public and, of
Many of the
We want to congratulate the State Department and especially the office of Assistant Secretary Elliott Abrams for its exhaustive reporting. summaries are excellent. Others are less helpful. In several, it appears that the administration's foreign policy agenda determined their evaluation of the human rights situation and not the other way around.
Under previous administrations, these reports focused on violations committed by governments themselves, since it is the government which signs the relevant international covenants, such as the "United Nations Declaration of Human Rights." The Reagan administration's report examines abuses by both governmental and non-governmental bodies. Redefining the concept of internationally recognized human rights in this way minimizes individual governmental responsibility for human rights violations. Furthermore, the new definition is not applied consistently in the examination of each country. For example, the insurgents are harshly criticized in El Salvador and Guatemala. Violations committed by opposition groups are stressed in Chile and Honduras. At the same time, however, similar behavior by anti-Sandinistas operating against the government of Nicaragua is virtually ignored.
The introduction to the 1982 report states that this year's report "attempts to treat political participation in a fuller and more precise to be more precise about the real meanings of 'elections' and Again, this principle is applied only intermittently.
example, the elections in El Salvador were described as a "major human rights development," despite the fact that the elections were conducted in a climate of fear and repression. The report accepts Chile's new constitution as "approved by a two-thirds majority in a national plebiscite," never mentioning the reservations which many groups expressed about what those elections meant.