There will never be a last chance for peace in El Salvador just as, alas, there never seems to be a lack of pretext for carrying on a brutal civil war that has claimed 75,000 lives over the past dozen years. Yet the clock is ticking. If a formal cease fire cannot be reached by the end of the year, the mediating services of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar will be lost as his term runs out.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar has been a driving force in nudging two deadly enemies caught in a time warp to the conference table. On one side are Marxist rebels, members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberal Front (FMLN), struggling on despite the worldwide collapse of communism. On the other are the rightist army strongmen, blind to the reality that Reagan-style U.S. military aid is almost over.
Surprisingly enough, the Salvadoran dilemma has never been put more clearly than by President Alfredo Cristiani, a very interested party. His countrymen, he said last fall, "are easy victims of that abusive and irrational polarity that divided the world. . . on the basis of artificial ideological fanaticism." What a description of the Cold War and its proxy hot wars in the Third World!