Trying to add a propaganda success to two intelligence coups, the government of El Salvador has handed out copies of captured rebel documents and has arranged interviews with a rebel defector.
The picture that emerges is of a weakened and divided guerrilla movement closely tied to Nicaragua, Cuba and Soviet Bloc nations.
The documents were taken from captured rebel commander Nidia Diaz, according to the Salvadoran armed forces. Diaz is in military custody, recovering from wounds suffered during a battle April 18, the day she was captured.
Among the documents are lists of rebels apparently sent for training in Cuba, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, East Germany and Bulgaria.
The U.S. Embassy here says that the documents, which came with translations supplied by the U.S. State Department, are authentic.
The Salvadoran government has also recently set up interviews for journalists with defector Napoleon Romero Garcia, a former rebel leader known by his combat name of Miguel Castellanos. Romero said he turned himself in after becoming disgusted with the "Marxist-Leninist" ideology of the insurgents.
In his first appearance last month not long after turning up in government hands, Romero said little and appeared groggy. A month later, he looked fit and spoke freely. His main assertion was that Salvadoran rebels receive about 70% of their arms from the Nicaraguan government.
He added, however, that stepped-up Salvadoran patrols have reduced the flow of weapons into the country and that the guerrillas have been forced to change tactics in the face of combatreverses.
Nidia Diaz' documents are apparently from the archives of the Revolutionary Workers Party, a faction of the rebel umbrella group, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
Diaz, a leading member of the party, attended the first round of government-rebel peace talks in La Palma last year. She was pursued and captured by soldiers in two U.S.-supplied helicopter gunships in rugged country near a mountainous area called Cerros San Pedro.
Diaz said that an unidentified U.S. citizen, armed and wearing a military uniform, was aboard one of the helicopters. The U.S. Embassy said he was a civilian who repairs infrared sighting equipment for the Salvadoran air force.
Diaz said that the American held a gun to her head during the flight to San Salvador. The embassy, which declined to identify him, said the American had saved her life by keeping her from jumping to her death from the aircraft.
Some of the documents seized with Diaz appear to be her own diary and lists of insurgents headed for training in Communist countries. Diaz herself was reported to be planning to attend a course in Vietnam this year.
Ties with Nicaragua are mentioned in a variety of documents, and it appears that the rebels' relationship with the Sandinista government in Managua was tense.
Nicaragua has long been seen as a major conduit for supplies to the Salvadoran rebels. The Diaz documents disclose another side of the partnership: in the event of a U.S. attack on Nicaragua, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front is supposed to help the Sandinistas.
According to minutes of a meeting between the Salvadoran rebels and Sandinista representatives, held after the 1983 invasion of Grenada, "The defense of the Sandinista revolution is the responsibility of the FMLN and the FSLN (Nicaragua's Sandinista National Liberation Front)."
The relationship turned rocky when the Salvadoran rebels decided that the Sandinistas were abandoning them. A rebel note dated Nov. 7, 1983, said the Nicaraguans apparently feared a U.S. invasion after the Grenada invasion and tried to put distance between themselves and the Salvadorans by cutting off supplies.
Another rebel note accused the Sandinistas of being prepared to "sacrifice the Salvadoran revolution" to save themselves.
The documents also confirmed the rebel dislike for the Salvadoran government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte and the fear that it was sapping rebel support. Duarte was labeled the "most dangerous enemy" in one entry in Diaz's diary.
"Duarte wants to involve us in an imperialist bourgeois project," the entry said.
Splits between the military and civilian leadership in the FMLN surfaced in one letter. Leaders of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, the FMLN's political arm, charged that the military leaders failed to appreciate the importance of Duarte's election. A letter from Guillermo Ungo and Ruben Zamora, two exiled Democratic Front leaders, said that combat leaders had not properly evaluated "the importance of this event and its negative impact on both the national and international level for our fronts."
The letter also charged that the military leaders ignore the political leaders. The latter complained that they know "little more than what appears in the newspapers" about the war in El Salvador.
The most recent documents tell of rebel hopes of gaining U.S. support for their cause by exploiting last year's U.S. presidential election. One letter from FMLN headquarters to the Sandinistas said that Central American problems could "bog down the present Reagan Adminstration."
A document dated June 5, 1984, suggested that FMLN representatives contact Jesse Jackson, then a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, and ask him to contact the Salvadoran government to help initiate rebel-government negotiations.
The defector Romero, a high-ranking official of the Popular Liberation Forces, a major FMLN faction, commented on the training of Salvadoran guerrillas abroad. But he mentioned only Cuba as a location for such training.
Romero, who was a member of the Popular Force's decision-making Central Committee, said that he surrendered near the town of Olocuilta in April.
His statements agreed with the Diaz documents on the point that the rebels consider Duarte to be an important threat. "Duarte broke the international isolation of the government," Romero said. "The government is something that has to be attacked strongly."
El Salvador Headquarters
Romero also told of the Marti front's troubles with the Sandinistas after the Grenada invasion. He said that Salvadoran rebel leaders were ordered out of Managua in late 1983 and now make their military headquarters in this country. However, radio communication with Managua is still maintained, he said.
Romero observed that the rebels have reverted to hit-and-run tactics because of reduced advantages over the now-large, better-equipped and -trained Salvadoran army.
"Army penetration of our areas hurts us," he said. "Principally, it destabilizes us and creates disorganization."
Rivalries among rebel factions have cropped up over tactics, Romero said. Some groups want to go to greater extremes of violence than others. "There's a contest to win propaganda points, to see who is more out front," he said.
Rebel spokesmen have tried to discredit both Diaz's documents and Romero's interview comments. The exiled Ungo has said that the documents are false. Others have declined to comment because they have not seen the papers.
In Mexico, a spokesman for the Popular Liberation Forces asserted that Romero has been tortured. The spokesman did not suggest that what Romero had said was false, adding, "He walked out of a Central Commitee meeting and told all."