President Jose Napoleon Duarte said Thursday that after 25 years in politics, he was “mentally but not emotionally prepared” for the kidnaping of his daughter.
“I thought they could kill my sons, but I never thought they would touch my daughters,” Duarte said in an interview with The Times. He did not say who he thought might be responsible for the abduction Tuesday of Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran, 35, his eldest daughter, from outside a private university here.
Duarte vowed that his government will not be provoked into using violence in response to the kidnaping of Duarte Duran. “The thesis behind this is the belief that the reaction to an act of violence also can be an act of violence,” he said. “I repeat, this is a government of peace. . . . We are going to continue with that scheme, and they will not make me lose control, whatever happens.”
When Duarte’s daughter and a 23-year-old friend were abducted by gunmen in front of the New University of San Salvador, her driver was killed and a bodyguard was wounded.
Kidnapers Are Silent
Duarte said that government still has received no word from the kidnapers and that he will not speculate on the case or on the government’s willingness to negotiate for his daughter’s freedom.
Privately, government officials have said they believe that anti-government guerrillas are responsible for the abduction, although there has been no mention of the incident on rebel radio stations.
Duarte said that in Guatemala three years ago, his son Napoleon escaped an attempted kidnaping and that his other son, Alejandro, was attacked by gunmen the year before that. But no member of Duarte’s immediate family had been harmed in the 5 1/2 years of El Salvador’s civil war, in which, it is estimated, more than 50,000 have been killed.
Duarte’s U.S.-backed government is fighting the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, an umbrella group for five leftist guerrilla forces. The Farabundo Marti group is allied with the Revolutionary Democratic Front, a more moderate left-leaning group that often serves as the guerrillas’ political arm.
Duarte, a Christian Democrat, has long been opposed by El Salvador’s right-wing extremists as well as the left. He was arrested, beaten and forced into exile in 1972 after he apparently won the presidency in an election that was later decided in favor of an army colonel.
Duarte’s running mate in that election, vice presidential candidate Guillermo Ungo, now lives in Panama and is head of the Revolutionary Democratic Front.
Duarte said that because of his political activity, his family has been accustomed for years to “emotional tension.”
“I have been clear with them about the risks that all of this signified,” he said.
Speaking slowly and in a heavy voice, he added, “Despite the fact that I was prepared mentally, this has been a strong blow.”
Duarte has received letters and telephone calls of support from President Reagan, a longtime ally, and also from liberal, left-leaning Latin American leaders such as President Raul Alfonsin of Argentina, President Jaime Lusinchi of Venezuela and Carlos Andres Perez, a former Venezuelan president and a leader of the Socialist International.
Duarte said he has received a letter of support from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and added that “the (U.S.) Congress is asking questions.”
In the past, Congress has tried to limit military and economic aid to El Salvador because of human rights abuses.
One Salvadoran official warned that the kidnaping could prove damaging to the Duarte government, depending on what Duarte may be forced to concede in negotiations. The abductors “have the ace,” he said, and added: “They can ask for anything. They might not get it, but they can ask.”
Duarte has named a commission of three members, including his son Alejandro, to review possible government responses in the event that there are negotiations for the daughter’s return.