Rebels Say They Hold Duarte’s Daughter

Times Staff Writer

Guerrillas claiming to hold the daughter of President Jose Napoleon Duarte have contacted the Salvadoran government and demanded the release of political prisoners in exchange for her safe return, according to Salvadoran and diplomatic sources.

The sources, who declined to be identified by name or organization, said the guerrillas described themselves as members of the Pedro Pablo Castillo Front, representing all prisoners from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the primary rebel organization, who are now held in government jails.

However, several rebel spokesmen in Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica said they have never heard of a Pedro Pablo Castillo Front and do not know who kidnaped Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran. The Castillo Front is not known to have carried out any previous actions.

Duarte Duran, 35, and a woman friend were kidnaped by gunmen last Tuesday outside a private university in the capital. Duarte Duran’s driver was killed in the abduction and her bodyguard was wounded.

Phone Call Told

Sources close to the government said that Duarte Duran was believed to be in good health, and one source said that Duarte spoke with his daughter by telephone over the weekend.


Communications Minister Julio Rey Prendes and Deputy Foreign Minister Ricardo Acevedo were in Mexico on Monday, reportedly trying to make further contact with representatives of the abductors. The outcome of their mission was not known.

Duarte received a telephone call in his office Friday from people saying that they wanted to to set up discussions for the release of his eldest daughter, a source close to the government said. The source said that the callers cut the conversation abruptly, apparently fearing that it would be traced.

After subsequent telephone contacts were made, Rey Prendes and Acevedo traveled to Mexico, reportedly carrying with them instructions from a three-member government commission set up to deal with the kidnaping. The source said he did not know what concessions the government would be willing to make for Duarte Duran’s release.

A high-ranking military source said that the armed forces leadership would be willing to consider a prisoner exchange, such as those that have occurred in the past.

Exchange in 1984

Last year, Defense Minister Carlos Vides Casanova’s brother, Eduardo, was kidnaped and then exchanged for a guerrilla commander after negotiations conducted by the defense minister, and other guerrilla combatants have been allowed to leave the country for medical treatment.

“No one is opposed to a prisoner exchange,” the military leader said.

According to one report, the kidnapers were asking for nine prisoners in exchange for Duarte Duran. A diplomatic source said that the request was for an unspecified number of prisoners.

The government holds about 400 political prisoners in the men’s penitentiary here, known as Mariona, and about 50 more in the Ilopongo women’s prison. Among the political prisoners are several guerrilla commanders.

A source close to the government said the kidnapers claimed to be from the Pedro Pablo Castillo Front, which they described as a group of present and former political prisoners from the five guerrilla armies that make up the Farabundo Marti front. Castillo was a hero of El Salvador’s battle for independence from Spain who died in jail before the country gained independence in 1821.

However, the political arm of the guerrilla organization, the Revolutionary Democratic Front, said in an official release that it has “no knowledge of those responsible” for the kidnaping and called the version of events by official sources a “completely irresponsible publicity stunt.”

Interview From Managua

“I have never heard of this (Pedro Pablo Castillo) command,” Ruben Zamora, a leader of the rebel political arm, said in a telephone interview from Managua.

In recent months, however, the guerrillas’ political arm has been in the dark about many operations of the Farabundo Marti front and apparently does not take part in military decisions.

Last July, a Farabundo Marti radio broadcast announced that the guerrillas would establish a new political action front focusing on political prisoners and named for Pedro Pablo Castillo.

A military source explained that the new front is probably a focus of activity for the Farabundo Marti front rather than a separate unit of command. He said, therefore, that he believes the kidnapers may turn out to be members of one of the existing guerrilla factions, who borrowed the name for an action on behalf of political prisoners.

There was also some speculation that the kidnaping might have been carried out by a splinter group of one of the rebel armies. Sometimes, rebel splinter groups act without the approval of the Farabundo Marti front, although the front rarely criticizes them and sometimes gives its approval after the fact.