The Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta article "Did Refugee Aid Go to Contras?" {op-ed, June 28} is misleading and unfair. It is important that the record be set straight.

The article implies that a $7.5 million U.S. Agency for International Development relief and development effort in southern Honduras was actually a contra-relief effort. The suggestion, incredibly, is based principally on a two-year-old memorandum written by an employee of a private relief agency. Not only did that agency's chief executive disassociate his organization from the memo, but the allegations are refuted by close U.S. monitoring and oversight, which includes six development and relief experts with more than 40 years of combined experience in the field.

But Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta choose to accept without challenge the contents of this memo, which was based on a one-week trip to Honduras in 1985, and is riddled with inaccuracies and unsubstantiated innuendo.

What the column failed to acknowledge is this: the congressionally mandated program is a carefully constructed and well-managed program which has improved the well-being and in some cases saved the lives of thousands of Miskito Indians displaced by the fighting in Nicaragua. The program is closely monitored and has undergone some of the most intense scrutiny ever given to a USAID project. The purpose of such hands-on monitoring is to ensure that the relief and development efforts efficiently help the program's intended beneficiaries and do so strictly in accordance with U.S. law. In both of those regards the program has been successful.

It is disappointing, to say the least, when these humanitarian efforts are undermined by journalists who choose to ignore the documented facts and report as totally credible one observer's random allegations made over two years ago and based on a week's excursion to Honduras.


Assistant Administrator, Bureau for External Affairs

Agency for International Development