In the face of strong congressional criticism, Secretary of State George P. Shultz yesterday recast administration policy on El Salvador to emphasize economic, social and political programs accompanying a planned large-scale increase in U.S. military aid.
Shultz' testimony before a key House Appropriations subcommittee was welcomed by several lawmakers as an important rhetorical shift for the administration. However, some asked for evidence that U.S. policies--and not just the words being used to describe them--actually are changing.
Subcommittee Chairman Clarence D. Long (D-Md.), who has been demanding such a shift in emphasis, called Shultz' testimony "a sea change in attitudes." Long said he continues to insist on a detailed administration plan to back up the generalities before casting his vote on President Reagan's proposal to divert $60 million from existing programs as fresh military aid to El Salvador.
Both the Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees on foreign operations have until next Thursday to consider the administration's reallocation plan.
Under tradition and practice, the administration cannot proceed if one of the subcommittees objects. In addition, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has claimed the right to pass on the transfer.
From questions asked and announcements made by lawmakers, the administration request is in trouble in both Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees.
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), an influential member of the Senate panel, yesterday provided further details of his opposition to the $60 million transfer. Inouye said that to win his support, the administration must immediately agree to reduce the transfer to $30 million, formally agree to limit the number of U.S. military trainers and advisers in El Salvador to 55, and undertake negotiations with all parties in El Salvador, including the guerrillas, through a U.S.-Mexico-Venezuela initiative.
"I am not a diplomat, but I can tell when a policy is not working. I am no statesman, but I am hopeful that diplomacy can triumph over force and violence," Inouye said in a Senate speech.
In exchanges with Shultz, senior members of the House subcommittee expressed a variety of strongly stated concerns about the course of the war, the capability of the Salvadoran military, the political gulf between warring parties and human rights conditions in El Salvador.
Shultz, testifying before the news of a new reversal in attempts to bring to justice the murderers of four U.S. churchwomen, said the judicial process in El Salvador is "a weak link" and that "some of these cases are deeply troubling to me."
He noted that in order to continue the flow of previously approved aid, he was required to certify to Congress in January that El Salvador was making economic and political progress, and making a concerted effort to pursue established human rights. Shultz said he "agonized" over signing this certification.
Shultz' opening statement to the committee gave heavier emphasis than most recent administration pronouncements to non-military aspects of the Salvadoran problem. He described U.S. strategy as meeting "two related challenges"--longstanding social, economic and political grievances, and communist exploitation of these problems through military means.
Putting the non-military aspects first, he described six "mutually reinforcing elements" of U.S. efforts as support for democracy, reform and the protection of human rights; economic development; military assistance; the administration's Caribbean Basin Initiative; regional economic and military efforts to deter Nicaraguan aid, and support for elections within El Salvador and regional political initiatives outside.
In discussing negotiations, Shultz reemphasized the distinction between expanding political participation through the electoral process, which the administration supports, and negotiations with rebel groups for the sharing of power, which the administration rejects.