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El Salvador

Peace Talks

In 1983 the interim government, led by Magana, created a Peace Commission and began meeting privately with FMLN-FDR representatives. Continued military stalemate led to direct public talks for the first time between the government and the FMLN-FDR in the town of La Palma on October 15, 1984. Duarte and Vides, representing the government at the talks, offered an amnesty to any guerrillas who laid down their arms and urged them to participate in the elections that year. The two parties reached some agreements on the conduct of the war and the evacuation of guerrilla prisoners, but they made no progress toward achieving a negotiated solution to the insurgency. The FMLN-FDR restated its longstanding demands. It wanted a powersharing arrangement whereby a certain number of its representatives would be included in an interim government to be established before the holding of elections, and it wanted to maintain its own armed forces after the cessation of active hostilities. The guerrilla representatives insisted that these were nonnegotiable elements of their position.

The Duarte government lost the initiative in the war in part as a result of the FMLN's kidnapping in September 1985 of the president's daughter, Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran, an action that totally preoccupied Duarte and virtually paralyzed his government for almost two months. Duarte lost considerable influence and credibility with the military and the public by ignoring El Salvador's policy against complying with the demands of kidnappers and releasing 126 FMLN prisoners in exchange for his daughter and 33 municipal officials (mainly mayors) previously taken hostage by the guerrillas. The agreement did not include a monetary ransom. Although the FMLN pledged as part of the agreement not to kidnap relatives of government officials, it verbally reneged on this promise a few months later.

The FMLN-FDR took advantage of Duarte's political weakness by rejecting his amnesty offer at the second meeting, held at Ayagualo, on November 30, 1985. The rebels countered with a tough three-phase peace plan calling for the creation of a new, transitional government of national consensus, with FMLN-FDR participation, that would hold national elections. Bitter over his daughter's kidnapping, Duarte postponed the scheduled third round of talks and rejected the FMLN proposal as contrary to the 1983 Constitution.

The FMLN boycotted the session scheduled for September 1986 in the Salvadoran town of Sesori after the government refused an FMLN demand that army troops be cleared out of a 650-squarekilometer area around the meeting place. Between the breakdown of the Sesori dialogue and the signing of the Central American Peace Agreement in August 1987, no formal talks were held for the purpose of achieving a negotiated solution between the FMLN and the government.

Some observers characterized the FMLN-FDR's proposals made in May 1987 as a formula for the "Cubanization" of El Salvador, citing the rebels' demands for nonalignment; formation of an extra constitutional transitional government, without elections, to include members of the FMLN-FDR; maintenance of guerrilla armed forces until the government was reorganized; imposition of a socialist economy; dismantling of the police forces; and nonintervention of foreign governments. Duarte rejected the proposal in a May 1987 speech, calling it a formula to weaken the government militarily and politically.

There was no further movement on dialogue until the five Central American presidents, at the initiative of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sanchez, met in Guatemala in early August 1987 and signed the Central American Peace Agreement, charting a peaceful resolution of regional conflicts through national reconciliation, cease-fires, democratization, and free elections (see The Crisis in Central America , ch. 4). Although the socalled Arias plan did not require dialogue with armed insurgent groups unless they accepted amnesty, the Duarte government called on the FMLN-FDR leaders to accept the peace plan as the framework for negotiations and dialogue. Duarte also persuaded the military High Command to endorse the Central American peace document, although several officers voiced doubts about it. Guided by the agreement, Duarte reopened a dialogue with the guerrillas, promulgated a broad amnesty, ordered the military to undertake a unilateral cease-fire after the FMLN broke off cease-fire talks, and permitted the self-exiled FDR leaders--Ruben Zamora Rivas and Ungo--to return to El Salvador.

In early October 1987, two days of talks were held between government and rebel leaders. The representatives--who included President Duarte, four FMLN military commanders, and four FDR leaders--agreed to establish two commissions that would include government and rebel leaders, one commission responsible for negotiating a cease-fire, the other for addressing other measures of the peace plan. A second round of talks, held in Caracas on October 22, became deadlocked, with the participants merely pledging to continue the dialogue in Mexico City. The FMLN subsequently suspended the Mexico City dialogue, however, and unilateral cease-fires in November 1987 were unsuccessful. The guerrillas continued to demand a power-sharing arrangement and the maintenance of their own military force as conditions for a settlement. Rejecting a cease-fire, the FMLN-FDR proposed a "moratorium" on arms deliveries, an end to recruitment on both sides, and the withdrawal of foreign military advisers. According to United States press reports, however, the FMLN agreed at toplevel FMLN-FDR meetings held in Managua in July 1988 not to oppose the FDR's participation in the 1989 presidential elections. The FMLN escalated its military and terrorist activities in the San Salvador area in the fall of 1988 and commenced a policy of seeking to cause civilian casualties by these actions. The FMLN also embarked on a campaign to assassinate democratically elected mayors. The guerrillas executed seven survivoring mayors, one former mayor, and one government official between March and November 1988. They threatened to kill more than twenty others.

Data as of November 1988

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