Kidnaping of Mayors Fuels Salvador Tensions

Times Staff Writer

Coming quietly at night, the guerrillas knocked on the wooden door of Mayor Francisco Chavez’s adobe house. They ordered him to bring along two changes of clothes and they marched him into the dark hills outside town.

Chavez is one of seven Salvadoran mayors kidnaped by guerrillas last week and one of 20 now being held by the leftist rebels. Those abductions, and the kidnaping Sept. 10 of President Jose Napoleon Duarte’s oldest daughter, have increased tension in a country already under severe stress from a long guerrilla war.

In Aguilares, a market town near El Paisnal, Mayor Mario Cardona said Sunday, “It’s hard to work effectively when you are under this tension. You never know what is going to happen in the future.”

20 Mayors Held

Like Chavez, Cardona is a member of President Duarte’s Christian Democratic Party, as are most of the 20 mayors being held by guerrillas. The abductions began last spring in the eastern part of the country, where the rebel forces are most heavily concentrated.

Radio Venceremos, a clandestine guerrilla station, said the rebels regard the mayors as instruments of counterinsurgency action financed by the United States, which supports the Duarte government.


Two of the mayors kidnaped last spring were killed by guerrillas, the army reported, and dozens of town halls were burned down. The kidnapings stopped but the guerrillas continued to hold 13 mayors captive.

Eight of them signed a letter in August that criticized the government for failing to negotiate their release. The letter said the guerrillas demanded that the government account for nine guerrillas and collaborators who allegedly disappeared after being captured by security forces.

Abductions in Chalatenango

Last Thursday and Friday, in coordinated action, guerrillas kidnaped seven more mayors--six from towns in the northern province of Chalatenango and one, Chavez, from the province of San Salvador, just 25 miles from the national capital.

Chavez was asleep when the small group of armed guerrillas arrived.

“They knocked on the door,” Angela Urrutia, Chavez’s sister-in-law, said Sunday. “They said for him to get up, that they wanted to talk to him.”

When they took the mayor away, “they said it was only to talk, to have a couple of words with him,” Urrutia said. “They were going to bring him back, they said, but they never did.”

The people of El Paisnal are accustomed to the presence of guerrillas.

“They come into town all the time,” said Marco Antonio Perez, 19, a friend of the mayor. “They don’t hurt anyone. They come to buy things, and they leave.”

Saturday, two days after the mayor was kidnaped, five well armed guerrillas come to town to buy provisions. Perez said he talked to one of them about the mayor, who is known by the nickname Paco.

“He told me that Paco would come back, that the family shouldn’t suffer,” Perez said.

Sunday, there was nothing to indicate that any of the kidnaped mayors would be freed soon. Also, authorities said there was nothing new to report on efforts to free Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran, the president’s 35-year-old daughter.

She and a companion were seized by unknown gunmen as they arrived at a private university in San Salvador for a class.