When the Fighting Stops
Eleven years after that first, much-loved, Viking transmitter made its secret journey from San Salvador to Morazán, one of its successors made the same journey, again in secret, but this time in the opposite direction. On 16 January 1992, Santiago and a small team arrived at the capital's outskirts to join thousands of peasants, workers, students, and members of religious organisations, many carrying FMLN banners, converging on the Square of the Martyrs. They hurriedly climbed the tower of the cathedral, connected up the console, and with their sister radio station, Radio Farabundo Martí, started reporting the celebrations below.
An all-too-familiar noise momentarily interrupted the festivities. A Hughes-500 helicopter, the killer of several compas in the war, began to circle overhead. Santiago raised two hands towards it in the victory salute. This time it didn't shoot. Peace really had broken out.
The FMLN took the city, not by force, but in an outpouring of jubilation and relief that after twelve years, and 75,000 dead, the civil war was over. Agreements brokered by the UN and signed in the Chapultepec castle in Mexico stipulated that five US-trained elite battalions were to be disbanded, including Colonel Monterrosa's infamous Atlacatl; the army was to be cut by half; a new police force was to be created under civilian control; a Truth Commission was to investigate the worst abuses; and there was to be land redistribution for former combatants of both sides.
For its part, the FMLN was to demobilise fully its 8,000 guerrillas, and turn itself into a political party. Its main achievement was to have won the right to participate openly and legally in the political process; its main aim was to take part in the elections of March 1994 and beat the ruling right-wing ARENA party. But could it broaden its appeal beyond the already committed peasants and trade unionists? Could it balance the demand of its militants waiting for land and training, with the exigencies of fighting an election? Could it demobilise but also keep alert to ensure that the right stuck to the accords?
In the event, the FMLN-Democratic Convergence coalition became the second political force in the country, beating the Christian Democrats into third place in the first round of the elections. In the subsequent second round run-off, widespread irregularities accounted for some of Arena's large margin of victory, but divisions between the different political organisations within the FMLN did not help their campaign, and healing them remains a major problem.
Radio Venceremos reflected the changing priorities and difficulties of peacetime. From the start, it declared it was no longer the official organ