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Support for Duarte crumbling. Salvadorean Army's defiance of truce signals his loss of control

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The Salvadorean Army's refusal to respect a Christmas truce in El Salvador's six-year-old civil conflict has spotlighted President Jos'e Napole'on Duarte's deteriorating relations with his country's armed forces. As San Salvador shook from Air Force bombing raids carried out unusually close to the capital city last week, it was clear that the holiday truce -- agreed to by the Roman Catholic Church, President Duarte, the Army, and left-wing guerrillas -- was being openly violated by government forces.

``By bombing in Guazapa, only 20 kilometers [12.4 miles] away from the capital city, the Army wanted everyone to know just exactly what they thought of the truce,'' said a foreign observer.

Col. Sigifredo Ochoa P'erez, in a pointed statement to Salvadorean reporters, said that Duarte may have ordered a truce, but that his (Ochoa's) orders came from the military high command. The high command had ordered no truce, he said.

``If the Army had felt that Duarte was a popular and strong president, they would never have dared to behave to him as they did,'' said one foreign political observer here, speaking in reference to the Army's breaking of the truce.

And many Salvadoreans say that Duarte has largely lost the support of his popular base -- the peasants and workers who elected him -- because of his failure to make any progress in stopping the war and because he has dealt with the country's difficult economic situation through what are generally perceived as increasingly conservative policies.

Duarte has not built any real bridges to the private sector, Salvadorean analysts say. That sector, one observer says, ``has always hated and mistrusted him and continues to do so. No matter how conservative Duarte acts, they will see still see him as a demagogue and dangerous radical.''


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