FMLN looks to peace in El Salvador

November 27, 1991

By Jill Hickson
and Camilo Jorquera

On November 15, the FMLN of El Salvador declared a unilateral truce as a sign of good will in its negotiations with the Cristiani government. The negotiations, held in Mexico under the auspices of the United Nations, are expected to come to an agreement to end the armed conflict in El Salvador, promote the democratisation of the country, guarantee respect for human rights and reunify society.

FMLN representative Leonel Granillo, currently visiting Australia on a tour sponsored by the Salvadoran Solidarity Network, told Green Left that the FMLN truce initiative "is something that we have been working on for some time now, ever since we went to the meeting in New York [in September]. El Salvador should have peace, especially in this last stage of the war, simply because we know that we can save the lives of many people."

While the past 18 months the talks have been complex and difficult, the overriding concern of the FMLN has been "to end the repression and the bombings of the civilian population and open up a new situation for the political participation by the people and their organisations in the public life of the country". It is also intended that the negotiations start "a new process of electoral reform, a change of the judicial system and an end to militarism."

Reconstruction has to be the next stage of development in El Salvador. "There is little or no industry left. Economically the country is in ruins, having survived for the past decade on massive aid from the United States. This money should be put into reconstruction."

While Granillo reports that has been a lessening of the repression in the recent months, the death squads are still operating and disappearances and murders have continued. Even with a cease-fire, Granillo says, repression will not end automatically. "It will depend on the agreements reached in the negotiations to be put into practice."

According to Granillo, the FMLN will not lay down its arms during the current phase of discussion. The next stage "will proceed to dismantle the armed forces and engage in a purge of the army, putting into practice the agreements. Until that time, the FMLN cannot disarm, nor incorporate into the political life of El Salvador."

The Mexico talks have reached agreement concerning the armed forces and constitutional reforms. They include subordination of the armed forces to the civil authorities and the establishment of the National Civil Police under the control of civil authorities. The National Civil Police and the armed forces will be independent of each other and under the authority of different ministries.

The military justice system will be changed to ensure that only cases which involve legal issues of a strictly military character will be submitted to it. Secondary legislation will deal with the paramilitary he management of the state security and intelligence organs and the personnel of the armed forces and the National Civil Police.

Agreement on judicial reform includes a new organisation of the Supreme Court of Justice and the election of Supreme Court judges by a two-thirds majority of deputies to the Legislative Assembly. It provides for the creation of a national human rights prosecutor and a "Truth Commission' (also under civil control) to investigate human rights abuses since 1980.

Reforms proposed for the electoral system are the establishment of a Supreme Electoral Tribunal to replace the Central Electoral Board. Legislation will ensure that no party or coalition exercises a dominant influence within it. Monitoring by registered political parties of the electoral roll will be a right, with the list of those eligible to vote being published 20 days before elections.

Conditions for a cease-fire have been a contentious issue. The UN mediator in May proposed a temporary partition of territory. The FMLN has agreed with this concept as an interim measure, but the government rejected it as conceding too much to the FMLN, which it would like to see confined to isolated areas.

It is clear that the US is not happy about the talks. In July the US renewed "non-lethal" military aid of $US21 million. On a visit to the country in April, General Colin Powell, US Armed Forces joint chief of staff, said that what was done to deter Saddam Hussein would be done elsewhere if it became necessary to defend "freedom".

Probably the most serious concern is the hardline right-wing political movement of the infamous death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson. The prospect of a peace that weakens the armed forces, reforms the electoral and judicial system and investigates human rights abuses seriously concerns them. They have issued death threats to anyone supporting constitutional reforms and have accused Cristiani of being a "traitor" prepared to hand over the country to "communists".

"For the FMLN and the Salvadoran people", comments Granillo, the main concern is "to try to stop this horrible war that has taken place over the last 11 years. We also know both that this is not the end of our revolution and that we have not achieved power by this. But it is a stage forward for us to compete politically and for us to achieve that power."

Commenting on the future role of the international solidarity movement, Granillo says, "We think that we are going into a period of transition which is very fragile ... We are asking the solidarity movement and the different political groups to try to accompany us in making sure that this agreement will be put into practice. In this period we need more help because we are engaging in reconstruction, and the hope is that it will take us into a very challenging path of 29S>n

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Medical assistance

The Salvador Solidarity Network and Committees In Solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean are jointly sponsoring a development assistance project to build a hospital in Chalatenango province, 55 kilometres north of San Salvador.

The project is designed to provide medical and health assistance to the 380,000 local population, the majority of whom returned home in 1987 after fleeing from bombing by the Salvadoran military that destroyed their homes and farmlands.

It seeks to provide medical and health services, with some specialised services in paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology being provided. A component will train health workers and paramedics. There will be training and education in preventive medicine and personal hygiene.

A water reservoir and a warehouse will be constructed and an electrical generator purchased for electricity. Medical students from the University in San Salvador will do their practical training there.

Granillo says of the hospital, "It is projects like this that will form the basis for reconstruction of El Salvador. There is no other way we can begin to rebuild our country, except with the help of international solidarity, of peoples all over the world who support our struggle."

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