Negotiations in El Salvador

In response to your editorial "In El Salvador: A Relic of the Cold War" (Sept. 3): Some assertions in that editorial should be set straight:

1. The war is not stalemated. In an insurgency, the burden is on the guerrillas to win a military victory in order to achieve political power. The government wins by retaining its legitimacy (i.e., acceptance of the government from the governed). Seven democratic elections in the last 11 years bear witness to the legitimacy of the democratic form of government in El Salvador. The FMLN has not achieved anything from its war, except for the destruction of much of the country's economic infrastructure and unnecessary loss of human life. In light of the rejection by the Salvadoran people of the FMLN's program, there is no reason for the very existence of the FMLN as an armed group.

2. The FMLN does not control "about one-third of El Salvador's territory" or any other significant segment of the territory. The Salvadoran government can send its forces anywhere in the territory of El Salvador it chooses, any time. Mere FMLN presence in certain areas only attests to the fact that the army cannot be everywhere at once. Over 80% of the army is tied up protecting bridges, dams, power plants, factories and the electricity grid, which are favorite FMLN "military targets."

3. In spite of the above considerations, the editorial's suggestion that the government of El Salvador should yield to the FMLN's outrageous territorial demands, which would include political control in those areas, ignores the basics of what these negotiations are all about. We are not negotiating to "buy" a cease-fire at all costs. We are negotiating to ensure lasting peace in El Salvador. Any government that allows the threat of continued violence and terrorism as a basis for territorial concessions would not be doing much for lasting peace. Political power can be granted only by the people, through elections, and not by the force of arms.

The government of El Salvador does recognize the need for a physical separation between the government's forces and the FMLN in order to achieve a credible cease-fire. We are talking about several temporary holding areas under U.S. supervision and control, large enough to accommodate the FMLN fighters. This is a long way, though, from giving the FMLN political and military control of a significant portion of our territory.



Washington, D.C.

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