Joseph S. Tulchin & Gary Bland
How does one measure the transition to democracy in El Salvador? The most positive trend is represented by the dramatic cease-fire accord reached on New Year's Eve in the waning hours of Javier Pérez de Cuéllar's tenure as secretary-general of the United Nations and by the emotional public reconciliation among President Alfredo Cristiani, the leadership of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), and the United States at the signing ceremony some two weeks later in Mexico City.There are other favorable signs, including the election of leftist leader Rubén Zamora as Vice-President of the National Assembly, the United Nation's role in monitoring human rights violations and ensuring the peace, and the widespread public expression of relief that the civil war had come to an end.On the other hand, a host of formidable obstacles to democracy remain: El Salvador is devoid of democratic tradition and strong institutions; the country is faced with continuing human rights abuses; and it is devastated economically and torn politically as a result of twelve years of civil war.
This apparent contradiction captures the complexity and the precariousness of the changes under way in El Salvador. The country is progressing, but it is also carrying the baggage of decades of dictatorial rule, of a bloody legacy of repression, and of a conflict over the establishment of representative government and social justice that has cost an estimated 75,000 lives, deep social polarization, and the destruction of billions of dollars of economic resources. The government and the FMLN have reached extraordinary agreements on political, economic, and military reform.Peace accords alone, however, do not resolve____________________