Duarte Assails Salvadoran Rebel Tactics, Peace Stance

Times Staff Writer

President Jose Napoleon Duarte marked his first year in office Saturday with a speech that harshly attacked leftist rebels and their supposed collaborators in El Salvador.

His assaults on the left wing included criticism of guerrilla military strategy, of the recent kidnapings of newly elected mayors and of labor unrest that he asserted is inspired by rebel infiltrators in trade unions.

Trying to command high ground in the battle of blame over stalled government-rebel peace talks, Duarte asserted that the guerrillas had rejected offers to ease civil war carnage by ending sabotage, assassination and kidnaping.

“The negative answer of the insurgents to the clamor of the Salvadoran people in favor of humanizing the conflict has translated into an irrational attitude,” said Duarte, whose government is backed by millions of dollars in U.S. aid.


Last week, a communique from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the guerrillas’ umbrella organization, charged that Duarte had broken off talks with the insurgents. Rebel leaders assert that the Salvadoran armed forces and the Reagan Administration are obstructing renewal of the talks.

Two rounds of negotiations were held last year, but none has taken place since Nov. 30. Duarte wants a series of private talks before scheduling a publicly announced meeting. The rebels want firm dates set for one private gathering and for a subsequent public meeting.

Duarte addressed his first anniversary speech to the members of the National Assembly, gathered at a local sports stadium. Victories in elections earlier this year gave his Christian Democratic Party control of the assembly.

The occasion amounted to Duarte’s state of the nation message and was marked by pomp. Duarte wore his blue-and-white sash of office. An honor guard lined his entry route, and top armed forces officers accompanied him.


A military band played the national anthem three times and a silver gong sounded the beginning and end of the meeting.

As has become standard in his speeches, Duarte praised the armed forces for staying neutral in elections and for backing his initial efforts at talks with the rebels.

The president said that he could not entertain, as the price for peace, rebel demands for a share in government and for a union of rebel forces with the army because he would not “betray” the armed forces.

He promised prosecution in death squad cases but did not mention possible trials of military officers linked with murder plots in the past.


He defended his economic record and detailed the efforts he has made to increase income for coffee and cotton growers. Coffee producers have been pressing the government for higher prices for their crops.

Almost from the beginning of his speech, he took the offensive against the rebels and their leftist supporters.

“Not winning the war militarily, they want to win it through economic sabotage and social destabilization,” he said.

He called on foreign governments and human rights organizations to press the guerrillas to release abducted mayors. At least 15 have been kidnaped since the beginning of the year, and one was slain in guerrilla custody.


In what appeared to be a veiled warning to strikers, Duarte asserted that a recent wave of walkouts have been planned by the guerrillas and carried out by infiltrators.

“When the unions are infiltrated and made to serve at the altar of war and destabilization, they lose their social function and the credibility of the people,” Duarte declared.

Recounting all the problems brought on by war, he admonished workers, “To ask for exaggerated increases in salary and benefits not in tune with reality constitutes insensitivity and even a lack of patriotism.”