A Plan for Peace in El Salvador

By Gonzales, Leonel | The Nation, October 15, 1990 | Go to article overview

A Plan for Peace in El Salvador


Gonzales, Leonel, The Nation


A Plan for Peace In El Salvador

At a time when momentous changes are occurring throughout the world, the struggle for democracy in El Salvador has reached its peak. A broad democratic movement has achieved unprecedented strength and unity. The political-military offensive launched by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (F.M.L.N.) on November 11, 1989, showed that the revolutionary forces could not be defeated militarily and that a political solution to the war was essential. Those factors created the conditions for United Nations-mediated talks to bring an end to El Salvador's eleven-year-old civil war.

The initiation of these negotiations represents a real victory for the democratic and revolutionary movement in El Salvador and opens the possibility of establishing real democracy. However, many observers -- including some of our staunchest supporters -- have misinterpreted these events. They view the F.M.L.N. entering into negotiations with the Salvadoran government as one more example of the failure of revolution. The collapse of many socialist governments in Eastern Europe and the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua are interpreted as meaning that there is no longer space for fundamental social change. These views, however, are based on both a misreading of the situation in El Salvador and a myopic view of the massive changes the world is undergoing.

Many of the political and structural problems that gave rise to the explosions in Eastern Europe exist in most of Latin America in a much more exaggerated form. These conditions are stimulating the development of a new, highly conscious movement for democracy.

The changes in Eastern Europe were achieved through a struggle of the people for democratic freedoms against a bureaucratic apparatus that had been installed over their heads. Those changes occurred with a minimal loss of human life. This was due to the fact that the popular will was respected by the armed forces and the ruling parties of each country, with the exception of Romania, where both were divided. Change was also tolerated -- and at times even encouraged -- by the dominant superpower in the region, the Soviet Union. Such a process of peaceful evolution has never been permitted in Latin America. Attempts at peaceful change in El Salvador, whether through demonstrations or even elections, have always been greeted with wholesale massacre at the hands of the country's ruling elite, with the full backing of the United States. This use of violence against a movement demanding democracy and economy justice plunged our country into civil war.

The United States has yet to go through its own "Yankee-stroika" in relation to Latin America. U.S. policy toward its "backyard" has been affected by the end of the cold war in contradictory ways. On the one hand, the disappearance of the threat of "Soviet expansionism" has cut away the ideological underpinnings that were used to justify decades of intervention. This has opened the way for the United States to play a more constructive role in resolving regional conflicts. On the other hand, now freed from the pressure of a socialist superpower, the United States is able to carry out an aggressive policy of gunboat diplomacy, so well exemplified by the invasion of Panama. And U.S. economic policies toward Latin America have only made the region more volatile.

A new social and political movement has arisen from political and economic marginalization and social injustice. This movement has a deep-seated commitment to self-determination and democratization. Examples of this can be seen in the democratic process begun with the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979, the Workers' Party in Brazil, the movement led by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in Mexico and the popular movement in Chile. In El Salvador, this force has taken the form of a massive democratic revolutionary movement, the strength and complexity of which we are just beginning to comprehend.

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