Back to Basics
When the Rafael Arce Zablah Brigade was at the height of its power, when all the FMLN's brigades were at their strongest, and the Salvadoran Army was approaching the breaking point, the commanders decided to disperse our forces.
We had brigades! Che Guevara would have been shaking in his boots. These weren't mere guerrilla columns, they were brigades of thousands of troops that took on the enemy face to face! We moved 120mm cannons to assault the big bases, the impregnable ones, breaking through all their lines of defence. We travelled up the Pan-American Highway, no less, in a caravan of 18 buses filled with guerrillas to take over Nuevo Edén de San Juan. You wouldn't believe it. At six in the afternoon, the BRAZ finished knocking off a position near El Semillero and at six the next morning they were getting off those buses to capture a far-off town near the Honduran border as well! Such well-planned insanity confounded all the enemy's expectations.
The end of '83, beginning of '84, was the moment when the army -- even the Yankee advisers admit it -- was on the point of collapse. In just one year, the Armed Forces lost 3,104 men in combat, equivalent to over four battalions wiped out by the FMLN. Add on the wounded and those we took prisoner and we're talking about 8,000 casualties. Then add on the casualties of the two previous years and it's practically all the troops the Salvadoran Army had when the war began.
At that peak moment of victory after victory, the FMLN General Command met and evaluated the situation: "If we go on like this, we'll lose, because we aren't made for a regular war. That's where the enemy wants to take us: into a conventional war that they'll end up winning for sure, or rather, that they'll never completely lose."
Our struggle became an indirect confrontation with the Yankees, since they took over the strategic direction of the war. They supplied the army with great quantities of materiel; they dictated the political strategy. They made Duarte and the High Command look like puppets. Their financing grew to over a million and a half dollars a day, and we had to face high-tech weaponry and the escalation of low-altitude air war using helicopters.