Salvador Rebels OK Peace Talks : Accept Duarte’s Offer, Want Session in Capital
El Salvador’s guerrillas agreed Tuesday to President Jose Napoleon Duarte’s offer to renew peace talks that have been stalled for 1 1/2 years, but said they want to meet first with “the people” inside the country.
In a communique read on their clandestine Radio Venceremos, the rebels said they want the peace talks to be held in the capital, a site the government rejected the last time the two sides met in November, 1984.
Duarte made the surprise offer to reopen talks during a speech Sunday marking his first two years in office. He said the meeting could be held “without arms” in July or August and would be inside the country, a condition the guerrillas had pressed.
2 Rounds of Talks
The first round of peace talks was held in the provincial town of La Palma in October, 1984, and a second round was held six weeks later in the religious retreat of Ayagualo, several miles southwest of the capital. Since then, the two sides have been unable to agree on terms for a third meeting.
El Salvador has been bloodied by civil war for six years. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front guerrillas are fighting to oust Duarte’s government, which they say is kept in power by sustained U.S. support. The guerrillas are allied with the unarmed Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDR), exiled politicians who left Duarte’s Christian Democratic Party.
Duarte’s position during previous talks has been that the guerrillas must put down their arms and form legal political parties. In his speech Sunday, Duarte said he wanted to talk to the rebels again about putting down their arms.
But in their communique, the rebels rejected that possibility.
“Considering that Duarte tries to confuse the people and the world, sustaining in his publicity speeches that the dialogue is oriented towards the FMLN putting down its arms, it is necessary for the FDR-FMLN and the government to communicate previously with the people the themes that will be addressed in the meeting.”
Plan Early Arrival
The rebels added that they “will arrive in advance (of the talks) in San Salvador to meet with diverse sectors of the nation to get to know their opinions with respect to a political solution to the national crisis.”
For political and security reasons, it is doubtful that the government would allow the rebels to hold legal meetings in the capital before the peace talks. Last December, members of the Revolutionary Democratic Front announced that they planned to attend a National University forum on peace, but Duarte said that if the exiles returned to the country, they would be arrested as collaborators with the armed guerrillas.
Duarte has been facing growing discontent among the workers and peasants who elected him in 1984. They have formed a new labor coalition that has been calling for economic reforms and for peace talks with the rebels.
The rebels said the Farabundo Marti Front would send military commanders Joaquin Villalobos and Leonel Gonzalez to the talks and that the Revolutionary Democratic Front would be represented by exiled politicians Ruben Zamora and Guillermo Ungo.
Linked to Regional Pact
In a separate analysis of Duarte’s offer, Radio Venceremos said the proposal was made in lieu of signing a regional peace treaty under the Contadora process.
“It is impossible for the Duarte government to sign a Contadora pact because this pact calls for the withdrawal of the North Americans and the cutting of U.S. aid, which would signify the fall of the army and the regime,” the rebels said.
They said Duarte’s proposal responded to President Reagan’s regional political objectives.
“They want to create an environment of pressure on Nicaragua so they (the Sandinistas) will dialogue with the Somocista mercenaries,” it said, referring to the Nicaraguan contras who are called Somocistas by the Sandinista government because several of their military leaders were members of the National Guard under Anastasio Somoza, the dictator deposed in 1979.
Refuse to Yield Arms
The Salvadoran rebels said they are willing to look for a political solution to the war, but they repeated their longstanding position on negotiations.
“We do not recognize the legitimacy of the Duarte government, we do not recognize the constitution and we will never put down our arms,” the rebels said.