The Long War: Dictatorship and Revolution in El Salvador

By James Dunkerley | Go to book overview

5
'REPRESSION WITH REFORMS'

The Salvadorean people are noble; they have trusted and they continue to trust their leaders. But they have now reached their limit. At this moment, the reforms under consideration are like a rock teetering on the edge of a precipice that no one and nothing can prevent from falling.

President Fidel Sánchez Hernández, September 1970

The Partido de Conciliación Nacional (PCN) ruled El Salvador for 18 years, from its foundation in September 1961 until the coup of October 1979. In establishing the party, Colonel Julio Rivera aimed to provide a durable vehicle with which the military might maintain power and yet avoid the pitfalls of a purely institutionalist rule, retaining space for negotiation and a degree of flexibility. Aside from the avalanche of grandiose pronouncements which the party's functionaries rained down on the Salvadorean people, its principal claim to being democratic lay in the commitment to hold elections every five years. These, through a combination of fraud and open coercion, it unfailingly won, never courting the risks of proving that it was not really the party of officialism. Hence, Rivera converted his provisional presidency into one that was 'constitutional' in March 1962, opposed only by a donkey nominated by the students as 'the only candidate worthy of competing with officialism'. 1 The party's founder arranged to be succeeded, with few problems, by Minister of the Interior Colonel Fidel Sánchez Hernández in 1965, and Sánchez Hernández in turn secured the election of his secretary, Colonel Arturo Molina, in 1972, albeit with much greater difficulty.

By conceding formal democratic liberties with a modicum of consistency but refusing with equal regularity to countenance their implementation, the PCN avoided being tarnished as an outright dictatorship in most of the chancelleries of the world. At the same time,

-72-

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The Long War: Dictatorship and Revolution in El Salvador
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Rise of the Oligarchy 7
  • 2 - The Crisis of the 1930s 15
  • 3 - Militarism Readjusted 32
  • 4 - The Failure to Modernise 45
  • 5 - 'Repression with Reforms' 72
  • 6 - The Rise of the Left 87
  • 7 - The Model in Crisis: from Molina to Romero 103
  • 8 - The Impact of Nicaragua 119
  • 9 - Revolution and Reaction 132
  • 10 - Civil War 162
  • Conclusion 206
  • Notes 215
  • Select Bibliography 231
  • Appendix One - Chronology 236
  • Appendix Two - The Landed Oligarchy 241
  • Appendix Three - Glossary of Major Contemporary Organisations 245
  • Appendix Four - The Organisation of the Opposition 249
  • Appendix Five - Protecting Civilisation 251
  • Index 257
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