Elliot Abrams is an aggressive warmonger who oversaw US involvement in all manner of atrocities in Latin America going back to his time in the administration of George H. W. Bush. He was convicted in 1991 on two counts of withholding information to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair but was pardoned along with others because these people protect their own. He has now reappeared as Donald Trump’s point person to Venezuela, no doubt because of his expertise in subverting governments in that region.
During a congressional hearing, he got visibly angry when congresswoman Ilhan Omar pointed out his ugly past, such as his support for US-backed forces in El Salvador that took part in the December 1981 massacre of the entire town of El Mozote, killing over 800 people. People like Abrams, seeking to renter the public eye, hate it when you point out their past criminality.
But as Jon Schwarz points out, Abrams lied yet again in his response to her criticisms of his role in El Salvador, when he said that the US ushered in a period of democracy with the rise of José Napoleón Duarte.
Abrams’s words were “not only factually, demonstrably untrue, but grossly so,” according to Alejandro Velasco, a professor of modern Latin American history at New York University. His testimony, said Velasco, “continues a pattern he has shown since the 1980s of hubristically rejecting out of hand any suggestion that defeating social justice struggles in the 1980s, through the most brutal means, should in any way be seen as anything other than a resounding victory for the U.S.”
To start: When José Napoleón Duarte was elected president of El Salvador in 1984, it was not “a free election.”
Duarte was one of many Salvadoran politicians who spent time on the CIA’s payroll. In March 1980, he joined a junta that had recently seized power, and by the end of the year had become the junta’s head. He stayed there for the next year and a half — a period of stunning, gaudy brutality by the Salvadoran military against the country’s population. Tens of thousands were slaughtered with U.S support, including those killed during the El Mozote massacre described by Omar.
Pratap Chitnis, a member of the U.K. House of Lords, traveled to El Salvador to witness the 1984 election on behalf of the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group. “Crucial to the whole standing of the exercise,” he reported, “was the fact that no politicians to the left of [Duarte’s] Christian Democrats” could participate. Why? Because, said official British observers, “had these representatives campaigned openly, they would have run a very high risk of being assassinated” by right-wing death squads.
Thus, Abrams obviously knows that this was no “free election.” As in the past, he was consciously attempting to deceive Congress.
Needless to say, it also is not the case that “El Salvador has been a democracy” since 1984. Control of the country remained in the hands of the military, with Duarte a largely powerless figurehead. The cruel war of the government against Salvadorans ground on for years. In 1986, the archbishop of El Salvador condemned indiscriminate bombing of civilians by the air force, and the establishment of free fire zones in which any inhabitants were deemed to be guerrillas and hence worthy targets.
This is the kind of ‘democracy’ that people like Abrams love.