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El Salvador

Left-Wing Parties


Anti-FMLN demonstration, San Miguel
Courtesy Donald C. Keffer

The major representative of the political left in El Salvador was the Revolutionary Democratic Front (Frente Democratico Revolucionario--FDR), a grouping of social democratic parties and the remnants of some of the "popular organizations" that led antigovernment protests in the late 1970s. Up to and including the elections of 1988, the left had been excluded from the electoral process. The most frequently cited impediment to leftist participation was right-wing violence. This was certainly a very valid consideration in the early 1980s, when the level of human rights violations was extremely high (see Right-Wing Extremism , ch. 5).

By the mid-1980s, however, political violence had declined considerably, rendering the possibility of leftist participation more plausible. Such an eventuality was complicated considerably by the direct association of the FDR with the violent, rejectionist left as represented by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional-- FMLN). The leadership of the FMLN clung to the position that the only legitimate elections would be those undertaken after the conclusion and implementation of a power-sharing arrangement between the government and the FMLN-FDR. Participation in elections held in the absence of such an agreement only served to legitimate what the insurgent commanders described as a puppet government of the United States. This extremism and intransigence by its allies made problematic the FDR's full inclusion in the electoral process. Yet another consideration for the leftist parties was the potential for a weak showing at the polls and the loss of prestige and bargaining power that would entail.

Nevertheless, despite the numerous factors weighing against them, members of the two leading parties in the FDR coalition began to return from foreign exile to organize and possibly to compete in the 1989 presidential elections. Ruben Zamora Rivas, the leader of the Popular Social Christian Movement (Movimiento Popular Social Cristiano--MPSC), and Guillermo Manuel Ungo Revelo, head of the National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario--MNR), returned to El Salvador in November 1987. Wearing body armor beneath their suits, the two made several public appearances and were interviewed on Salvadoran radio and television stations. The groundwork for their dramatic reappearances had been established by other, less prominent members of their parties who had returned to assess the political climate prevailing under the Duarte government.

In December 1987, the MPSC and MNR announced that they were forming a political coalition that would also include the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata--PSD), a small leftof -center party established in 1986. The new grouping was dubbed the Democratic Convergence (Convergencia Democratica--CD). Many observers felt that the CD was set up in order to contest the legislative and municipal elections of March 1988. The CD's announcement in January of that year that it would not field candidates put an end to such speculation and bought the coalition additional time to contemplate its strategy for the 1989 elections. Public statements by Ungo and Zamora shed little light on their intentions in this regard. In one such statement, Ungo denied that the CD was intended to function as an electoral coalition. Zamora adhered closely to the FMLN line in a December 1987 statement in which he advocated the creation of a "transitional government" prior to the holding of general elections. Nevertheless, in March 1988 the MPSC began the process of legal inscription as a political party under the procedures established by the Electoral Code; subsequent press reports also indicated that electoral participation had been approved by the leadership of the FMLN.

Although Ungo and Zamora denied any possibility of a split between the FDR and the FMLN, there were definite signs of uneasiness between the two groups. Most of the open disagreements involved the FMLN's continued advocacy and employment of terrorism as a political instrument. The FDR leaders particularly disagreed with the kidnapping of Duarte's daughter and the June 1985 murder of thirteen people, including six United States citizens, in San Salvador. The return of MPSC and MNR members and their possible participation in the established electoral process was seen by some as another manifestation of the growing strains within the FMLN-FDR alliance.

Data as of November 1988

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