Although El Salvador's civil war ended eight years ago, the U.S.
military again is increasing its presence in the small Central American
country. In July, the Salvadoran legislature approved a U.S. request
for a drug-surveillance operation carried out by the U.S. military.
The FMLN--the guerrilla movement in El Salvador's civil war and
now the largest party in the Salvadoran legislature--strongly opposed
the agreement, and tried unsuccessfully to convince the Salvadoran
Supreme Court to block it.
Opponents of the operation cited the symbolism of stationing U.S.
troops in a country that suffered through a 12-year civil war fueled
by U.S. support for a right-wing government that committed human-rights
atrocities. "It's very sad that the civil war ends, and such a short
time later, the best we can do is to set up another military base
when the country is still trying to rebuild from the war," says
John Lindsay-Poland, director of the Task Force on Latin America
and the Caribbean for the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The agreement with the Salvadoran government limits the U.S. presence
to 15 military personnel and aircraft that are based in the United
States but are stationed in El Salvador temporarily--usually for
about six months, says Stephen Lucas, spokesman for the U.S. military's
Southern Command, based in Miami. The operation is run out of a
Salvadoran military base at Comalapa International Airport near
San Salvador, which also functions as the country's principal civilian
airport. U.S. flights have already begun.