Calderon Sol assumes presidency

June 02, 1994|By New York Times News Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- Armando Calderon Sol took office as president yesterday, leading a right-wing government that has pledged to complete the political changes promised to end the 12-year civil war.

After receiving the sash of office from his predecessor, Alfredo Cristiani, Mr. Calderon Sol sought to calm fears that he will dilute the progress envisioned by the 1992 peace agreement, saying that he will support programs to encourage democracy.

"We want to make a peace that will be an example to the world," he said. "The epoch of dogma and fanaticism is over."

Mr. Calderon Sol, 45, has said repeatedly that his Nationalist Republican Alliance, known as Arena, has matured from the harshest days of the war. The Cabinet sworn in yesterday is seen even by critics as coming generally from the moderate wing of the party.

RF Still, there is concern among diplomats and opposition politicians

about Mr. Calderon Sol's ability or the willingness of his hard-line allies to solve the social and political problems that divide the country.

Arena has learned more about how to appear democratic than to genuinely embrace democracy, said a Latin American ambassador.

"The new president and the people around him know the right words, but I don't think they know what the words mean," he said.

El Salvador's emergence from a history of authoritarianism also may be hampered because the country's other main political parties did badly at the polls and have become so torn by internal debate that their ability to challenge Mr. Calderon Sol's party is in doubt.

"The new government has nearly all the power," said Gerardo Le Chevallier, a leader of the centrist Christian Democrat Party. "There are no checks; there are no balances."

The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the left-wing alliance that won 21 of the 84 seats in the National Assembly, had boasted that it had the strength to exert some influence on the government's actions.

But frictions within the alliance burst into an embarrassing public feud the first day the legislature met. Seven leftist deputies broke ranks and voted for the slate of Assembly officers proposed by Arena.

Their colleagues publicly denounced them, then said they no longer could represent the alliance.

"Years ago we came together to make a revolution, not because we agreed on everything or even liked each other," one former guerrilla leader said. "Now, we find there isn't so much to hold us together."

Perhaps the most urgent issue is what the United Nations calls serious shortcomings in carrying out reforms promised to end the war.

In a report three weeks ago, the United Nations indicated that the new civilian police force was being undermined because many of the important positions were being filled by officers of the discredited militia that the new police is supposed to replace.

There also are deficiencies, according to the United Nations, in promised efforts to reform the judicial system and give farmland and credit to former fighters.

Political murders continue, and a commission investigating the killings was scheduled to end its work Tuesday. However, one of the first matters Mr. Calderon Sol will have to act on is the request by the commission that its mandate be extended.

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