El Salvador’s Rebels Want Place in Army
Salvadoran guerrilla leaders, preparing for their first peace talks with the U.N. secretary general, will insist on integrating some of their troops into a revamped national army, although the Salvadoran government has rejected that proposal, a rebel leader said Thursday.
Salvador Samayoa, a member of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front’s negotiating team, said disagreement over the issue is the main obstacle to a cease-fire. But he added that any peace agreement “must guarantee effective control of the armed forces.”
U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar is to meet separately with the government and the rebels in New York on Monday and Tuesday in an attempt to break a 16-month stalemate in the negotiations. But recent rebel and government comments indicate that the most that can be expected from the meetings is an agenda for further talks.
Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani has called the rebel plan “totally impractical.” While accepting Perez de Cuellar’s summons to New York, the government and army have refused to meet face-to-face with the rebels.
Samayoa said the rebels are not seeking a “fusion” of the two armies--a plan of the kind that emerged from peace settlements in Angola and Zimbabwe.
They are willing to discuss any formula for incorporating rebels into the defense and security forces. “We don’t want to present a specific procedure or quantity, because that would give the impression we are seeking quotas of military power,” Samayoa told reporters here.
What the rebels are seeking, he said, is a much smaller Salvadoran military, purged of its worst human rights abusers and with “a different doctrine of national defense.” The 57,000-man armed forces, he said, “are now anti-democratic and see the people as the enemy.”
The rebels believe that by including some of their members in the army, they can guarantee its reform and the stability of the country. “There has been war for 11 years, and there are thousands of armed and trained men. If we don’t take these sectors into account, there will be widespread discontent, and we are going to have as much or more violence, but uncontrolled,” Samayoa said.
But the guerrillas have not been able to force a reform of the army during more than a decade of war, and he admitted that it would be difficult to do so.