Ex-rebels doing well as Salvadoran political party

March 14, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

SONSONATE, El Salvador -- Leftist presidential candidate Ruben Zamora, flanked by former guerrillas who until recently were waging civil war, gazed out yesterday over the smattering of red flags waving in this town's central plaza.

The left's opponents "want to look at a past of suffering and explosion . . . a past that must be left behind," he told the small crowd. The leftists, he said, "want to walk to the future . . . a future that we dreamed of, fought for, year after year."

In their first foray into civilian politics, El Salvador's former guerrillas have positioned themselves as the country's second major political force going into elections next Sunday, polls show.

Despite internal divisions and serious organizational problems, the guerrillas, in coalition with four leftist parties, are expected to DTC capture a number of congressional and mayoral seats in El Salvador's first postwar election.

At least 2 million Salvadorans, emerging from more than a decade of fratricidal war that claimed about 75,000 lives, will choose a new president, an 84-member legislature and 262 municipal governments.

Weekend rallies across the country capped the election campaign. Although the campaign closing was largely festive, with colorful banners and tropical music, violence erupted on the edges of at least two rallies as celebration gave way to insults, fruit throwing, shootings and stabbings. The street brawling left two dead and about 90 injured as the United Nations appealed for calm.

U.N.-brokered peace accords in 1992 ended the war between Marxist rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, and a series of governments backed by the United States.

The two sides had fought to an impasse, and lost their traditional sponsors as the Cold War ended. Under the accords, the FMLN disarmed and became a political party in exchange for sweeping military and judicial reforms.

Mr. Zamora's underdog candidacy still lags far behind the ruling party's Armando Calderon Sol. But the Zamora coalition has displaced the centrist Christian Democratic Party, which governed from 1984 to 1989 but is saddled with infighting and an uncharismatic candidate.

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