Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Salvadoran Factions Feel Growing Heat to Bring Halt to War

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Salvadoran Factions Feel Growing Heat to Bring Halt to War

Article excerpt

REBEL attacks on military positions across El Salvador Tuesday night carried a simple message to the government and military: "Just because we are negotiating, do not believe we are militarily weak."

It was the strongest military action by rebels since November. But sources say the attacks belie compelling reasons why peace talks due to begin soon between rebels and the government have a better chance now than at any time in the decade-long conflict.

"Eastern Europe and the UNO victory in Nicaragua are pressures for the guerrillas," says one US diplomat. In addition, the Soviet Union has made it clear to the Salvadoran rebels that it has no intention of bailing them out with reconstruction aid in the event of a rebel military victory, informed diplomatic sources say. Such hard facts have had a profound effect on rebel thinking.

"We don't see ourselves as a revolutionary Marxist movement anymore," says Salvador Sanabria, a guerrilla spokesman. "There is no space anymore for a subsidized revolution like Cuba or Nicaragua."

Rebels say a guerrilla military victory might even be counter-productive. Thus, they have agreed for the first time to electoral participation if certain conditions are met. Some of those conditions imply major changes in Salvadoran society; for example, redefining the Army's role. Negotiations on this issue promise to be tough.

The government of President Alfredo Cristiani is also under pressure to talk. Salvadoran rebels appear unlikely to win, but also seem unlikely to be defeated by a US-backed Salvadoran Army. That point was driven home by the rebel's November offensive in which guerrillas seized sizable sections of the capital and other cities, despite Army declarations that the rebels were weak.

"The offensive was a cold shower for a lot of people," says a US State Department official. …

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