Rebels Target Leadership of Duarte’s Party
In an apparent escalation of their plans to bring warfare to the nation’s cities, El Salvador’s leftist guerrillas Monday placed officials of the ruling Christian Democratic party on a list of combat targets.
This was the first time that top Christian Democrats had been publicly singled out by the guerrillas, although they have kidnaped Christian Democratic mayors in several small towns and routinely referred to the government as “the enemy.” Right-wing politicians and military officers have long been targets of assassination.
The threat came in a communique that listed other potential victims: U.S. military trainers, Salvadoran military officers, air force pilots, the rich and rightist Nicaraguan rebels who reside in El Salvador.
Duarte Singled Out
Although the rebel leaders said they are not threatening the life of President Jose Napoleon Duarte, they said that as commander in chief of the army, Duarte, as well as other top commanders, “must assume responsibility for their role in this war.”
The warnings came in a communique broadcast on rebel Radio Venceremos in the name of the five military leaders of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the rebels’ umbrella group.
“We are resolved to carry the war to wherever necessary, with the resources necessary in order to end the peace of military commanders, Yankee advisers, the oligarchy, murderous pilots, Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries and Christian Democratic functionaries,” it said.
Defense of Slayings
The broadcast offered a detailed justification for last week’s sidewalk cafe shootings of four U.S. Marines by urban guerrillas. The Marines were guards at the U.S. Embassy. Nine bystanders also were killed.
Calling the killings a “just action in legitimate defense of our people and our sovereignty,” the statement added that “we are not disposed to continue tolerating and permitting our principal enemy (the United States) to make war on us without receiving a response.”
The decision to publicly threaten Christian Democratic party officials is a departure for the rebels. Although they have stepped up assassinations in recent months, all but two cases involved right-wing politicians, police, military or other security force personnel.
In February, leftist gunmen shot at a Christian Democrat election official but missed him and killed his bodyguard. Earlier this year, guerrillas operating in the eastern part of El Salvador began to kidnap mayors. One Christian Democratic mayor was shot to death. The guerrillas said he had tried to escape.
Much of Monday’s communique was dedicated to listing grievances against the United States and President Reagan.
The rebels blamed Washington for supplying bombs and advice to pilots who bombed civilian targets; for training army units that massacred peasants; for harassing Salvadoran refugees in Honduras and trying to force them back home, and for brainwashing soldiers to do their bidding.
It also assailed U.S. support for rebels fighting the Marxist Sandinista government of Nicaragua.