Duarte Tells Supporters He Will Press Reforms
President Jose Napoleon Duarte promised an estimated 70,000 cheering supporters Saturday that he will push ahead with a series of social and economic reforms despite opposition from the right.
The huge crowd, which defied death threats from leftist rebels battling the government, roared, “Duarte! Duarte! Duarte!” and waved green-and-white flags, colors of the president’s Christian Democratic Party, as Duarte spoke.
“Do we want social change? Do we want land reform? Do we want tax reform? Do you support me?” he shouted to the tens of thousands of people who had marched through the streets of the capital to Liberty Park for one of the largest rallies ever held in San Salvador.
“Yes, yes, yes,” the crowd replied.
The rally was viewed as a test of the U.S.-backed president’s support. He has been under harsh attack by the rebels and by right-wing groups who have tried to force him to step down because of his economic policies.
“This is his final card, his way to show people support him despite the hard times and the war,” said one diplomat of Duarte, who defeated a rightist candidate in June, 1984, to become the first elected president in almost 50 years.
Sharpshooters lined the surrounding rooftops and helicopters circled overhead as Duarte vowed to press ahead with reforms.
“You elected me and that is why I am president,” he said. “I will turn power over to whomever is elected, but never through coups or pressures of any kind.”
“Those of the far right will not fool the people. We will not retreat in agrarian reforms and will continue to push the social changes this country needs,” Duarte said.
The extreme right was outraged by a recently enacted tax package aimed at the wealthy. Duarte charged they were only angry because they would have to pay taxes for the first time in history.
“All we are saying is that those who have more should pay more, those that have less should pay less and those that have nothing should pay nothing,” Duarte said.