Civil war ends at last in El Salvador, but differences persist after cease-fire

February 02, 1992|By New York Times News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- On the first day of the cease-fire officially ending the Salvadoran civil war, the leftist guerrilla front served notice yesterday that while its differences with the political right have diminished, they have not disappeared.

"Today, we stop being enemies and become political adversaries," said Joaquin Villalobos, the chief military strategist of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, shortly before he and nine other men were sworn in as members of the Peace Commission.

Mr. Villalobos, who was applauded and cheered repeatedly by supporters among the several thousand people at the ceremony, said that as a legal political force, the guerrilla front would continue to pursue its goal of changing "the feudal backwardness" in the Salvadoran countryside.

Ignoring the partial land reforms carried out by military and Christian Democratic leaders at the beginning of the 1980s, Mr. Villalobos said that "without profound changes in land tenancy there would be no development in other sectors of the economy, nor stability."

Although they did not mention it at the installation ceremony, members of President Alfredo Cristiani's party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance, have made clear that they do not want to cede anything further in individual land rights.

They argue that aside from the issue of individual rights, the country cannot risk seeing its production of major export crops such as coffee damaged by turning over more land to peasant-run cooperatives, many of which have been unprofitable.

But as part of the peace accords, the Cristiani government did commit itself to find a way for most of the peasant cooperatives set up during the war in guerrilla-dominated areas to hold onto their lands. The titles to much of that land, near the Honduran border, are held by people who fled to other areas for fear of the guerrillas.

At the outset of a day filled with celebration and ceremony, Mr. Cristiani swore in the 10 members of the Peace Commission, which will share many responsibilities with the government in carrying out the accords.

The commission is made up of two members of the guerrilla front, known as the FMLN; two from the government, one of them military; and one member from each of the six political parties or coalitions in the Legislative Assembly.

At the ceremony, guerrillas in suits and ties stood beside military officers in braid, and rightist politicians stood beside leftists as the national anthem was sung.

Later in the day, Mr. Cristiani led the ceremonial lighting of a peace torch, military and police units attended Masses in barracks around the country, and rebel supporters organized all-day parties in downtown plazas where vendors sold newly manufactured FMLN T-shirts.

At the morning ceremony, each speaker paid tribute to well-known figures from his political party or group who died in the 12-year war. The continuing political differences were obvious when people in the audience generally applauded only the victims from their own groups.

The only name that drew applause equal in intensity to that accorded Mr. Villalobos was that of Roberto d'Aubuisson, the founder of Mr. Cristiani's party, who is near death from cancer.

Mr. d'Aubuisson, who is immensely popular with many humble Salvadorans as well as the wealthiest in the country, was viewed as the instigator of much of the rightist violence at the outset of the war, but in the late 1980s he turned his political movement toward the idea of a negotiated settlement.

"We surprised the world with our capacity to make war with a determination unique to Salvadorans," Mr. Villalobos said in his speech. "Now, we are surprising the world by finishing a war that seemed endless."

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