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Winning support

The battle for the hearts of Salvadoreans has yet to be won. For months it's been pointed out that the government's inability to control right-wing terrorism is one reason it's distrusted by many of its citizens.

Now comes strong evidence of what some observers also have been saying: that many Salvadoreans don't support the guerrillas, either. They just want the war to stop so that they can be left alone, in peace.

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In areas they control the guerrillas have undertaken a major campaign to recruit fighters. But instead of supporting the campaign and joining up, many people have fled - by one estimate 1,500.

Several hundred young people who were forced to join the guerrillas quickly gave themselves up to the Army instead of fighting.

Some families are reported to have fled these areas because the rebels had demanded that children attend guerrilla-controlled schools.

All this is strong evidence that the guerrillas, despite their efforts to gain support in the countryside, still do not have the backing of many Salvadoreans.

New President Jose Napoleon Duarte has promised changes which, if carried out , might well make Salvadoreans more trusting of their government.

At present there is a long road to walk before this public confidence is built up. Most important: Right-wing terrorism must be ended, and corruption as well. The shattered economy must be rebuilt and land reform re-started.

Yet it is worth noting that Salvadoreans also realize the guerrillas have major deficiencies, too. The war is still either side's to win or lose.

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