Francisco L. Peccorini, a right-wing Salvadoran political figure who earlier taught philosophy at Cal State Long Beach, was assassinated here Wednesday, according to police.
Peccorini, a vocal and highly visible critic of the Christian Democratic government and of leftist political movements that he charged with aiding El Salvador’s Marxist guerrillas, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, was ambushed about noon while driving on a busy street in the capital.
Police said a man with a silencer-equipped pistol shot Peccorini three times in the chest. He died later in a hospital. Police said they assumed the killer was a member of the FMLN but offered no evidence to support that.
Peccorini, 74, taught philosophy at Cal State Long Beach from 1966 until he retired in 1986, according to Toni Beron, director of public affairs for the university. He was born in San Miguel, El Salvador, came to the United States in 1962 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1976, she said. He lived in Fountain Valley while teaching in Long Beach.
After his retirement, he and his wife moved to San Salvador, Beron added. There, he had been very vocal in his opposition to the leftist insurgency, denouncing the rebels in debates, on television and in the San Salvador press.
Beron said that Peccorini had recently visited Long Beach with his wife, Theresa, but returned to San Salvador before his wife so that he could take part in the closing days of the campaign for Sunday’s presidential election.
Marie Whittington, a former student of Peccorini’s, described him as a consummate teacher.
“He had a very engaging personality,” she said. “He was always surrounded by his students. One of the characteristics that was most obvious was his enthusiasm in the classroom.”
Although he did not exhibit any particular interest in politics when she studied under him in the late 1970s, Whittington said, his more recent political involvement had raised concerns for his safety among some of his friends.
“He didn’t feel any sense of danger,” she said. “We were concerned about his being there, but he said that no one would hurt him, that he stayed out of the dangerous areas and knew how to control the problem.”
During the recent visit, Beron said, one friend told him, “Frank, these people play for keeps,” to which he replied, “so do I.”
Beron described the mood on the Long Beach campus in the wake of Peccorini’s death as stunned.
“There are a lot of people who are very upset,” she said. “It’s a tragedy and I think it’s being viewed as such. There are a lot of shaken people on campus today.”
In other action Wednesday, FMLN rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades at the presidential palace in San Salvador, which houses President Jose Napoleon Duarte’s offices, and at an adjacent military garrison, wounding a palace guard and six civilians. Duarte was not in the palace at the time.
The FMLN, which has vowed to disrupt Sunday’s elections, also issued an implicit death threat against election workers, reiterated that it will enforce its call for an election boycott with a traffic ban and stepped up attacks on military and civilian targets that left at least 37 dead, most of them rebels.
Wednesday’s attacks outside the capital concentrated on northern Chalatenango province and included two military bases and five towns, army and rebel reports said.
Also on Wednesday, a judge in the city of San Sebastian indicted an army major and a second lieutenant on murder charges in the massacre of 10 peasant farmers six months ago. Judge Alcides Guandique’s action against military officers is unprecedented.