White House and State Department spokesmen said yesterday that Ambassador Deane R. Hinton's recent public warnings in El Salvador "were not intended to signal any departure" in administration policy or in U.S. emphasis on "quiet diplomacy" in human rights matters.
Hinton's remarks were "not intended to represent any change in either the substance or style of U.S. diplomacy. It was in keeping with the major outlines of our policy toward El Salvador," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said.
In a speech to El Salvador's Chamber of Commerce a week and a half ago, Hinton warned that unpunished murders and kidnapings tied "to some elements of the security forces" are endangering support in Washington for the Salvadoran government.
The ambassador's comments were widely publicized.
Speakes' remarks, echoed by State Department spokesman Alan Romberg, were in response to press reports that Hinton had been told to curb public criticism following expressions of "surprise" and "concern" by unnamed White House officials.
Speakes said the administration continues to stand by its policy of working in private for changes in human rights situations but added that "from time to time we will speak out."
Romberg said Hinton's speech had been cleared by the State Department but not by the White House.
Romberg said that "ambassadors' speeches are not regularly cleared by the White House, but Hinton's speech represented continuity" in U.S. policy toward El Salvador.
Hinton's warnings that U.S. aid programs might be endangered in Congress unless progress was made in El Salvador's justice system drew sharp protests from the right-wing press.
Romberg said yesterday that Hinton's remarks "reflected and still reflect U.S. policy."
U.S. officials indicated that his unusual and highly publicized remarks were intended as a one-time public warning and are not likely to be repeated in the near future.