El Salvador after the war

December 4, 1991

RUBEN ZAMORA is a leader of the Democratic Convergence and member of the National Assembly in El Salvador. He was interviewed by DANIEL KNOTT on October 29 in San Salvador.

There has been a lot of work put in over a long period of time on the peace negotiations, and currently there is talk about achieving some sort of peace before the end of the year. Do you regard this as a reality?

It seems to me that the question is not if we are going to achieve or negotiate a settlement; the question is, how long is it going to take to achieve it? I think it is still possible to think in terms of a cease-fire by the end of the year or the beginning of '92, and my personal calendar is that in the first half of next year we are going to complete a whole peace process.

I heard someone say recently that no-one has won the war, and it seemed to be a comment that possibly undermined a lot of the efforts that had gone into reaching this stage in Salvadoran history.

The comment could be a half truth, in the sense that this war is ending by a negotiated settlement. Neither side could defeat militarily the other, so you could say that nobody won the war.

But in another sense, and this is for me the important half of the matter, if the objective of this political settlement is the demilitarisation of Salvadoran society, I would say that having achieved that demilitarisation is a clear victory for the poor and the majority of the Salvadoran people. Because for the last 60 years this country has lived under military rule, and the military domination of the politics is the main obstacle to the birth of pluralistic democratic society in El Salvador.

In such a demilitarised environment, what sort of a challenge do you think that will throw up to the left?

I think that the challenges are fundamental. In the first place, the left need to learn how to move from a stage in which confrontation and armed confrontation were the main tool of politics into the new phase in which armed confrontation is no longer going to be a valid instrument, and consultation and dialogue are going to become more and more dominant in political activity.

The left has to be able to put forward a credible program; no longer we can rely on the old slogans and the old tools that probably were never the truth, but the new things that have to be adapted to the new situation. This is the second challenge.

The third challenge for me is that the left has to learn how to translate all the political gains that the Salvadoran people are going to make in the process of negotiation, and translate them into institutionalised power using the electoral instrument. Maybe this is one of the most central and fundamental challenges. In the past there's been involvement by the international community at a whole range of levels. One level has been that of solidarity, and over recent years there's been a drop in levels of solidarity with El Salvador. At other levels there have been governments that have been involved in El Salvador. In the process now do you see any particular roles for the international community?

I see a very important role being played by the different levels of the international Community. We are going to be left after this war with thousands and thousands of wounded veterans or civilians who have been maimed by the war, and we have to integrate those people. We are going to be left with thousands and thousands of people who only know how to handle a rifle, and their only business for years has been shooting at people, and we have to transform all these people into useful citizens who know how to do something.

We are going to be left with a country with a lot of destruction of the infrastructure and a lot of psychological wounds in its population, especially among children. We have to rebuild the infrastructure, we have to heal all those wounds, and this is going to need a lot of help from the international community.

Solidarity is going to continue to be important. The period after the negotiated settlement is going to be a very difficult one in which the balance of forces is not going to be clearly defined. The international solidarity movement, it seems to me, will have to continue helping in the balance of forces. I hope that the solidarity movement is going to learn how to adapt to the new demands that the Salvadoran people are going to make, and therefore will be able to continue to play an important role.

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