Duarte seeks talks with Salvador rebels
Salvadorean President Jose Napoleon Duarte will try to open a dialogue with the political arm of the Salvadorean rebel movement, his advisers say. And these advisers expect the rebels to accept Duarte's offer.
''We must first create the climate for them to return'' to the nation's political system, says Julio Adolfo Rey Prendes, Duarte's new minister of the presidency, referring to the leaders of the Democratic Revolutionary Front. The FDR - the political wing of rebel movement - is composed primarily of dissident Christian Democrats, the party of which Duarte and Prendes are leaders.
''They argue that their security here cannot be guaranteed and they have a good argument. We will work very hard on human rights. I think that within six months or a year we may be able to make it safe for them to come back,'' Prendes says.
Duarte used strong language to condemn the rebels in his inauguration speech Friday, so many analysts were surprised by the first reports that he would now seek a dialogue.
''Marxist governments like Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union have entered and armed the guerrillas,'' Duarte said in his speech Friday. ''The guerrillas have invaded our country and their actions are directed from the exterior.''
What has become clear in conversations with Duarte and his advisers over the weekend, however, is that the new government draws a sharp distinction between the FDR and the armed wing of the rebels, the Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front.
''It is clear to us that the FDR leadership does not represent the guerrilla commanders,'' Duarte says. ''They can't stop the commanders from acting. The FDR is an instrument of the guerrillas, and I think it is obvious that the guerrillas don't want dialogue or peace.''
Prendes says there are signs FDR leaders also are willing to talk:
''There have lately been certain expressions by Ungo (Guillermo Manuel Ungo, Duarte's 1972 vice-presidential candidate, is now president of the FDR) such as his claims that the FDR only has 'cordial' relations with the FLMN. We interpret this to mean that they may be willing to dialogue with us. We will not dialogue with the guerrillas because they are an armed group. It would be the equivalent of allowing the armed forces to negotiate for us.''
Actually, Christian Democratic leaders have long differentiated between the political and military wings of the rebel movement. They note that the armed groups advocate a Marxist-Leninist model of development that is at odds with the FDR's political platform.
''In 1980 the FDR presented five conditions for their involvement in the political process,'' Prendes says. ''They wanted the banks nationalized, they wanted foreign commerce nationalized, they wanted improvement in the agrarian reform, they wanted democracy, and finally a respect for human rights.
''The first four have been accomplished if you accept that we will fix the . . . the agrarian reform. We feel very, very strongly about human rights. If we can create a climate where human rights are respected, there is no way that we'll be able to say we have not completed what they have asked for.
''I think the FDR is tired of working with the guerrillas,'' Prendes says. He adds that ''the FDR has no influence with the guerrilla commanders.'' He said the FDR announced the rebels would not disrupt elections, but some groups tried to do so anyway.
In the area of human rights, the Duarte government will immediately investigate several assassinations, Prendes says.
''We will investigate the murder of (Roman Catholic Archbishop) Oscar Arnulfo Romero, we will investigate the murders of two of our top party leaders, Mario Zamora and Melvar Oriana. We will bring those responsible to trial, and we will deal harshly with human rights violations which occur as of June 1.'' Duarte assumed office on June 1.
Prendes says he does not foresee an investigations into the murders of four US churchwomen slain here. Five low-ranking former national guardsmen were convicted of their murders in May, but the families of the women charge that top Salvadorean military officers tried to cover up the identify of the killers.
''President Duarte personally investigated that case,'' Prendes says, ''and all we have found, with the technical assistance provided by the FBI, is that there is no evidence of a cover-up. . . . the case is closed.''