U.S. Policy / El Salvador

Bonner, Raymond. Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador. New York: Times Books, 1984. 408 pages.

Weakness and Deceit is based on Bonner's experiences and research in El Salvador from 1981-1982, as well as on hundreds of documents and cables released under the Freedom of Information Act. By 1982 tiny El Salvador had become the fourth-largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world due to fears about a Marxist avalanche in Central America. This required some rhetoric from Washington when Congress insisted on human rights certification, but ultimately American policy amounted to a wink and a nod for the death squads that were linked to the Salvadoran military.

After graduating from Stanford Law School, Ray Bonner was twice decorated in Vietnam as an officer in the Marine Corps. During the 1970s he worked for Ralph Nader in public interest law. In 1979 he started travelling in Latin America, and in 1981 was hired by the New York Times. After over a hundred stories filed from El Salvador, where he was one of the first Western correspondents to travel with the guerrillas, the NYT reassigned him in 1982 following complaints from U.S. officials about his alleged anti-U.S. bias. He left the NYT in 1984 and was soon writing for New Yorker magazine. In 1988 he and Jane Perlez moved from New York City to Nairobi, Kenya, where she began her new assignment as the New York Times correspondent for East Africa.

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