Journal, July 18, 1976 AM (Sunday)

A war of words is taking place in the Salvadoran press over the government’s announcement of the first agrarian “transformation” project. The project, which will be carried out in an area along the “litoral” {coastal} highway in the eastern part of the country, is big, stretching from Usulután almost to San Miguel. They will buy up landholdings of more than 50 manzanas {35 hectares} (leaving the owner 50 manzanas if he chooses), and distribute lots to campesinos {peasant farmers} in sizes ranging from 5 to 50 manzanas, but undoubtedly much closer to 5 manzanas in nearly all cases. Anyway, an organization of business interests called ANEP has purchased space in the official paper to call it the first step on the road to socialism, and a threat to free enterprise. The government has answered with (at least 2) 2 page ads defending its case in social terms (very cogently I might add), and emphasizing the long-term health of democracy in this country.

Yesterday, for example, the government had a two page ad, an organization called “Comite pro Defensa de los Derechos Humanos” {Committee pro Defense of Human Rights} quoted James Madison in a short ad calling the agrarian transformation project a threat to liberty, and three labor organizations let be known their unqualified support for the project in an ad titled “A Quien Representa la ANEP?” {Who Does ANEP Represent?}. I hope the government can carry out the project efficiently. I distrust the ISTA {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria or Salvadoran Institute for Agricultural Transformation} bureaucracy from my experience working in conjunction with them, but this is such a big thing, President Molina will be calling the shots all the way, and those who don’t produce will get the ax! It might go a long way toward transforming ISTA! Ed {Shiffer} talked to a university student who invariably criticizes the government, & the guy said this project is clearly capitalistic and organized down to the last detail. Although a socialist by inclination, the student is all for it. I hope the coffee oligarchy and other landed interests don’t prove too much for {President} Molina to handle. If he gets unwavering support within the military, I think his position is solid, but if not he could be ousted or, more likely, have his chosen successor preempted by a man more committed to the “terratenientes” {large land-owners}. Molina’s walking the line; give the little pudgy guy credit!

I got zero goals completed yesterday. Today I’ll write some urgent letters. I have no “ganas” {desire} to do so now, but will not let myself leave this little house ‘til I’ve made some progress.

I saw another movie last night (“Chato’s Land” starring Charles Bronson). Three movies in three nights and none of them very special - I must cut out such extravagance!

Carter-Mondale, I saw the NY Times for the day before Carter announced his choice, and it seemed that Mondale was the man considered most desirable by party regulars. Mondale is young and has a reputation for competence. He could have a shot at president, a good shot if Carter is elected & has a credible 8-year record. He stood to gain more from accepting the nomination than most others. I pointed to him early as a pragmatic choice. Carter-Mondale, I’ll almost certainly end up voting for them. James Reston writes that people considered FDR {Franklin D. Roosevelt} an unknown quality who was fussy on the issues, and that {Harry S} Truman was mortified at JFK’s {John F. Kennedy’s} lack of experience. Carter is just new enough to Washington and tough-minded enough that he might prove great. Or he might make a couple early misjudgments and never recover the public confidence. I like the possibility of change more than the guaranteed conservatism of Gerald Ford, though. And if Ford is forced to put {Ronald} Reagan on his ticket, he’ll steer even farther right. When the chips are down, the Republicans will always opt for the businessmen, and subject the workingman’s interests and social programs to “benign neglect”.

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