Patrick Morris ( Bethesda, Maryland): According to Tom Gibb, there is so much cynicism, at all levels in El Salvador, that what is happening there in terms of negotiations and prospects for changes through the electoral process seems not to register among the populace.Yet I cannot believe that some hope has not been identified in all of this. What is the public's attitude toward the foreign involvement, not only of US and international organizations but also of private organizations from outside the country who are operating there? Do some of these extranational bodies and actors have an influence—a hopeful influence—on the electorate and the people at the local level?
Tom Gibb: I think the degree of cynicism toward politicians and, in part, the lack of hope about the negotiations is a problem with communication more than anything else.Salvadorans do not have the access to see how people's real positions are changing; all they hear is the rhetoric. I stopped at an army checkpoint and mentioned to the soldiers that there might be a cease-fire later this year. They thought I was completely crazy. The realization that the war might end has not filtered down to everyone in El Salvador, and that is a big problem.
The Salvadorans are friendly people, very open in many ways, and in campesino communities their values are quite strong.Yet, despite all the discussion about it, Salvadorans are cynical about the war ending.It is a cynicism brought about by the war and the present political situation in El Salvador; it could change if there is a settlement.
The opportunities for aid and development work have been increasing in the past few years and are going to continue to open up considerably, especially if there is some kind of a settlement. That is a big "if"—partly because there is going to be a stage of intense competition