FMLN Reflections, 20 Years Later: An Interview with Nidia Díaz
Portillo-Gonzales, Esther, NACLA Report on the Americas
ON JANUARY 10, 1981, THE FARABUNDO MARTI NAtional Liberation Front (FMLN) launched its first offensive, occupying large sections of El Salvador's departments of Morazán and Chalatenango. The same month, María Marta Valladares, also known as Nidia Díaz, became a commander of the guerrilla force. During the 12-year civil war, Diaz became internationally known as one of the FMLN's most exceptional leaders. On April 18, 1985, she was captured, imprisoned, and tortured by the Salvadoran army. Six months later, at the peak of the civil war, she was released in exchange for President José Napoleón Duarte's daughter, Inés.
Díaz continued to be part of the FMLN through January 1992, when she was one of the signers of the Chapultepec Peace Accords, which ended the country's civil war and transformed the FMLN into a political party On January 16, Salvadorans celebrated the 20th anniversary of the accords. In a historic event in Morazán, President Mauricio Funes, of the FMLN party, commemorated the date by officially apologizing for the violence carried out by the Salvadoran military during the country's civil war. In light of the 20th anniversary of the Peace Accords, NACLA interviewed Diaz, currently the secretary of international relations for the FMLN. The interview took place in San Salvador on February 5, just over a month before El Salvador's March 1 1 legislative elections.
Could you talk about the FMLN and El Salvador since the 1992 peace accords?
Today we are in a 20-year process of democratization as a result of the Peace Accords that ended the military dictatorship. This made it possible to establish political freedoms and the right to organize, to participate in politics, to have an opinion, and to mobilize without the threat of repression. We have more possibilities and access to further organize politically.
At the end of 1992, the FMLN had the opportunity to become a political party. We have participated in several elections where we have an intimate relationship with the social sectors because in the 1980s the military factor was the common language of the political struggle. That has changed. Politics is no longer waged through bullets but through political, social, and legislative struggle.
At an event early this morning, we paid homage to Farabundo Marti, who was killed 80 years ago on February 1. They executed him along with [student leaders] Alonso Luna and Mario Zapata. Together with workers and peasants, Marti had led an indigenous democratic uprising in the west of the country on January 22, 1932, in a desperate attempt to demand that the government resolve the economic and social problems in the country. Instead, the dictatorship lasted for 60 years.
The Peace Accords we signed 20 years ago were aimed at exactly this: dismantling the leftover military dictatorship that the powerful oligarchy had opted for 80 years before, with the sole purpose of trying to destroy the popular movement. Instead of democratizing the country they chose dictatorship. And it took a tremendous struggle for us to finally dismantle this dictatorship after 60 years.
Today we continue to struggle to ever more deeply democratize the country, because these problems are resolved with more democracy. Two and a half years ago we finally achieved a great victory when we defeated the oligarchy in the 2009 elections. It has been a great challenge and an opportunity to participate in public policy from the presidency, and it has only been two and a half years.
We will hold legislative and municipal elections on March 11, and our great challenge is to remain the strongest political force in the country and to increase the number of public officials in the Legislative Assembly in order to continue making changes. We want to hold on to the mayor's offices we have now, grow elsewhere, and take back San Salvador. We are in the final stages, but we see it as part of the people's struggle to continue every day to better meet our objectives in order to - as [the former FMLN leader] Schafik Handal called it - live in "a place worth living in. …