No U.S. Apologies in El Salvador, But Who's Asking?

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Expect no apologies for the past when President Clinton addresses El Salvador's legislature Wednesday. In a speech covering the recent history of Central America, Clinton is expected to make only oblique references to Reagan-era U.S. support for authoritarian governments that committed human rights violations in their fight against leftist insurgencies. Despite speculation in the U.S. over just how much contrition Clinton would express for the policies of the past, Salvadoreans hardly appear to be demanding an apology: On Sunday, they firmly rejected a former leftist guerrilla running for president, voting overwhelmingly for the candidate of a party originally founded by a notorious right-wing death squad leader.

The President will focus on the future, and that's just fine with the Salvadoreans, for whom trade, debt and U.S. immigration policy are the priorities. "In order to rebuild their economy after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, they want billions of dollars of debt canceled," says TIME Latin America bureau chief Tim McGirk. "And they want the U.S. to extend a moratorium on deporting illegal immigrants. Many of those immigrants are sending money home -- sweatshop wages in California can still feed a family of 12 in El Salvador, and deporting illegal immigrants could further deprive Central America's economies." The future of U.S. relations with the region may not be as painful as the past, but it's not without its complexity.