Vice President Dan Quayle is back home from his first foray abroad for the Bush administration, apparently with neither great gaffes nor startling accomplishments to show for his largely symbolic mission to Latin America.
Quayle, meeting in Venezuela with world leaders at a presidential inauguration, signaled Bush administration sensitivity to Latin America and then went to El Salvador where he delivered a stern human rights message to the U.S.-backed government.The Latins had waited with great curiosity to size up the new vice president while his own countrymen watched to see how he would handle his first major assignment from President Bush.
Foreign service officials nervously hoped he would not live down to campaign criticisms that he was not up to the job of vice president.
By many accounts from U.S. and foreign officials, the diplomatic greenhorn acquitted himself well on the international stage, even displaying a certain verve.
In Venezuela, where his job was mostly to spread goodwill, Quayle's affable, political style was a hit with Latin leaders who place great store in "personalismo," one member of the U.S. delegation said.
"I was skeptical but I'm impressed," said Michael Skol, a State Department Latin America specialist who traveled with Quayle. After one day of meetings, Skol said, "He's making the right political moves, the right body language. He's not saying too much when he shouldn't say too much."
In El Salvador, a harder line was called for as Quayle went before some 20 military officers who lead the nation's 56,000-member armed forces. He delivered what was described by U.S. officials as an emphatic admonition on the need for progress in curbing human rights abuses.
Quayle took that same message to the country's political and business leaders, leaving a clear message that future U.S. aid will be linked to the country's success on human rights.