News from the front

An interview with an FMLN commander

By Samuel Adams
December 1989; pages 6-7; Volume 1, No. 3


    Member of the FMLN Political
    Diplomatic Commission
    Mexico City, Nov. 25, 1989
    Interviewed by Radio Farabundo Marti's Samuel Adams

Does the proposal for a cease-fire mean that the offensive is over?

No. The proposal for a cease-fire responds to the concerns and the international demands which have surfaced since the dramatic results in El Salvador, starting with the bombings and the thousands or civilian victims which were produced by the indiscriminate actions of the Salvadoran air force.

The offensive continues. We are in another phase and are not necessarily going to maintain the same tactical military planning with which we started the offensive. We consider that the principal theaters of operations are no longer the traditional guerrilla fronts in the rural zones, but rather are the peripheral areas and the urban zones of the most important cities in the country. What this is going to create is a level of national disorganization and instability, which will make the system ungovernable.

I think that the most important lesson that Cristiani and the armed forces have learned is that the analysis they had in the last few years - that of a strategic weakening of the FMLN - is absurd. It was this mistaken analysis which would not permit the dialogue to advance because they thought that the FMLN had come to the negotiating table in order to surrender.

In global terms - militarily, politically and socially - how has the FMLN evaluated the results or this offensive?

Obviously, we must say that in social terms there have been immensely strong and dramatic blows against large sectors of the Salvadoran population. Much infrastructure has been destroyed, not infrastructure of the powerful sectors, but of the popular sectors, including hundreds of homes destroyed. This has worsened the housing problem, which already existed in the capital and in all of the principal cities of the country, with the exception of Santa Ana. This is in addition to the economic crisis, which was already hitting the poorest sectors of the country.

In international terms, once again it has become clear that ten years have not served to modify or convert the death squads, nor the assassins, who are the military leaders who for the last ten year have been the army's principal commanders. Obviously, this is shown plainly with the tremendously tragic act, repudiated by the national and international community - the assassination of the Jesuit priests. The impact of this has been great: it has had a direct effect on many sectors of North Americans who are reflecting on what U.S. policy has done in El Salvador while trying to make it appear that there are no death squads in the right-wing or the army.

These are gains, but of course gains at terrible social cost for the country. We hope that these things put the situation on a more objective level for a negotiated solution, and that they understand that the country is in a precarious situation. We would say that only a negotiated solution to the conflict can save the country because this is almost a situation of agony.

"In El Salvador, there is an exclusive, pro-oligarchical, authoritarian project, which is supported by all of them: from D' Aubuisson to Cristiani."

The proposal of the FMLN comes at a time immediately after a very strong offensive. Spokespeople even said that the objective was to overthrow the government. Can you explain this proposal? With whom can you negotiate, given that the government has said that it is not willing In negotiate? What prospects do you see for a cease-fire?

The proposal is not exactly a proposal, but rather a response to international demands for a cease-fire. We, through Radio Venceremos, have told Cristiani that he should realize that this is not a new proposal from the FMLN. Rather, it is a response to all of the demands of the social forces of the nation for a cease-fire, including the opposition parties, the church and unions. etc., as well as demands from international organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European community, and [the] Latin American governments. All ... have expressed the need for an immediate cease-fire. Thus, when we say that we are willing to implement a cease-fire, we are not necessarily making a proposal, but rather responding to national and international demands. So, if this cease-fire comes about, what then? It is not so that the military forces can maintain themselves in the terrain indefinitely .... This is not the intention. The intention is to generate conditions for a realistic and pragmatic negotiation in El Salvador.

As far as your question about overthrowing the government I think that at no time, as far as I know, were there any public declarations of this sort made. We always said that we had started this offensive in order to find better conditions and a correlation of forces to break the tie at the dialogue table, which had been organized in Mexico City and continues in San Jose. The process of negotiation had not advanced at all because obviously the army based its position on a totally mistaken idea that the FMLN was weak.

Now, what happens with this new situation? The participants in the solution to the conflict can no longer be only the government and the FMLN. We think that the opposition parties must participate, and the social forces as well - the organization representing most of these forces is the Permanent Committee for the National Debate (CPDN). Only a consensus government, which represents the interest of all, can bring stability to the country. An exclusive and excluding government, like Cristiani represents at this time, cannot achieve stability. If his government stays there will be war for a long time.

What is your evaluation or the U.S. reaction to this situation?

It is important to say that the U.S. government in this new situation is the one who has the most responsibility for the direction which the situation in El Salvador could take. The army is obviously even more hardline than before the offensive. It has never yielded to pressure or been moderate. Today, given their incapacity to foresee what happened, their pride has been hurt and they want to demonstrate that they can indeed defeat the FMLN. Thus, a spiral of war is opened within the military as the only alternative. Since it is the U.S. government which provides the instruments that continue the war, it is they who can define the path which the country will take in the next five years.

There are sectors or the civilian opposition who have commented that this offensive has served to strengthen the far-right and that this situation distances even more a political-military solution to the war. They say that there is a military draw and that it is impossible for either side to win militarily. What does the FMLN think about this?

In the first place, I don't agree with saying that there is a right and a far-right in El Salvador. There is one sole political and economic project which supports the well-known far-right, and which supports the super-moderate right ... and Cristiani is its spokesman. There has been one economic-social-political project, and that is the project of ARENA, and that is the project the armed forces defends.

To say that those who are already hardline have hardened their positions is to think that at some point in time there really did exist a moderate right in El Salvador. In El Salvador, there is an exclusive, pro-oligarchical, authoritarian project, which is supported by all of them: from D'Aubuisson to Cristiani, and from Roberto Murray, who is supposedly a moderate businessman, to Bustillo. There is no difference between them when you talk about their plan, what do exist are more intelligent maneuverings and less intelligent maneuverings. For example, Bustillo, the head of the air force, said yesterday that they shouldn't negotiate and that what they should do is annihilate the FMLN. Cristiani said the opposite. He said that they should negotiate the FMLN's surrender. Different words, but ... it's the same, the FMLN must disappear.

As far as the opposition political parties, the Permanent Committee of the National Debate, and the popular organizations. What response have they had to the FMLN offensive?

First, all of those groups had to hide because they knew what was about to come, and not from the ultra-right but from the government. Now we see that well-known law being discussed, it appears that it's already been passed. [Editors' note: The Salvadoran government recently passed a group of "anti-terrorist laws" which, among other things, prevents even the mention of FMLN peace proposals and restrict the right of assembly.] This law totally limits the activities of an organized civilian society. What has happened is that they had to save their skin and see how they could weather the storm that would ensue once the army began to take advantage of the conditions to kill off all the opposition.

Later, once there were more possibilities to come forward and say what they thought, these organizations and parties have demanded immediate negotiations and a cease-fire. They all coincide in one thing - that they want to participate in these negotiations.

This is obviously a very important factor in achieving a more pluralistic and stable situation in the country. Given this, we believe that the role they are demanding is just and that they should participate.

They are [the] third force which can propose alternatives ... This could open up a more rational and less ideological debate, which would let us find an understanding between all the parties, not just between the government and the FMLN.

On an international level there have been many calls from governments and other forces for negotiations and a ceasefire. What effect can this level of interest and pressure have on the internal situation in El Salvador?

I think that it is a very positive factor ... For example, the European community has decided to send no more aid and to freeze all of the aid which it had promised to the Cristiani government. It is going to continue sending aid through the churches and other organizations for the victims of the offensive. What is clear to Cristiani? If there is not a negotiated solution that satisfies the international community in the aspects of democracy and social justice, international aid is going to be limited.

In another sense, as far as what El Salvador needs, I think that the Jesuit priests were the key to making all of the governments realize that in El Salvador the same assassins from ten years ago still exist. It is the cleansing of these assassins that is a fundamental need in order to establish a democracy in El Salvador. I think that few people can call our proposals, which call for the purification of the army, irrational. This is just one example of a proposal which we had made in the past and which was seen at that time to be unrealistic. At this moment, no one doubts that forces other than just ARENA need to participate in order to stabilize this country.

"Since it is the U.S. government which provides the instruments which continue the war, it is they who can define the path which the country will take in the next five years."

This means opening up a pluralistic structure, the confirmation of a participatory government. not an exclusive government with clear expressions of ideological tendencies that are not totally allied. Even the Christian Democrats have been accused of being traitors to the country because they do not accept the legitimacy of the present genocidal project.

The Christian Democrats have hit the government in a sore spot by saying that they do not agree and that this is not a government of national unity which is fighting against the FMLN; rather, it is an exclusive, authoritarian project which is struggling against the majority of the people, including the Christian Democrats. We believe that international pressure is going to obligate the parties to be more rational. In this sense, even the U.S. government will have a role to play in these few perspectives [that] we are seeing.

What are the conditions that need to exist before the FMLN will return to the negotiating table with the government?

First of all, as we said in a letter to Baena Soares [Secretary General of the Organization of American States] on the 13th of November, we are agreeable to a cease-fire so that the population does not continue to suffer. We especially want the bombings to stop. We also asked him if he could sponsor a meeting with representatives from the opposition political parties, the government, the high command, the National Debate, and the FMLN in order to come up with a viable proposal for the country.

We still believe this would be a correct move. However, we will not accept it if they send a Minister of Justice who has no power. Cristiani and the High Command must be there.