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“Best Lodging Location for Fishermen & Beachgoers” Group Discounts P.O. Box 8 Port Aransas, TX 78373 Send for Free Guff & Bay Fishing Information LAS AMERICAS El Salvador Negotiations Prompt Cautious Optimism THROUGHOUT APRIL, hopes ran high in El Salvador that negotiations between the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front El Salvador would produce a genuine ceasefire. The optimism was sparked by an FMLN proposal in March to accelerate talks that would silence the guns in an 11-year civil war that has left over 75,000 Salvadorans dead and nearly a quarter of the population displaced. But, according to FMLN spokespeople, pressure from far-right elements in El Salvador and U.S. ambivalence undercut the broad scope of the. April talks, leaving only limited constitutional reforms Inside El Salvador, pressure built for both the FMLN and the government to come to terms with peace. War fatigue registers as perhaps the broadest consensus in El Salvador, said Salamon Amaya, a professor at the national University of El Salvador. The responsibility for peace extends beyond El Salvador, he said. “From the urban slums to the rich colonias to the poor, rural towns,” Amaya added, “the people are tired of the equation where the United States provides the bullets and we provide the bodies.” Responding to the call for peace becomes a central policy concern for any group claiming to represent the aspirations of the Salvadoran people. Cristiani’s right-wing ARENA party, sobered by its losses in the March 10 local elections, made additional overtures in favor of the peace process. Both Cristiani and party chief Calderon Sol stepped forward as the main ARENA spokespersons for the rightwing ‘ s participation in negotiations. The Salvadoran Armed Forces humbled by the continuing military vitality of the FMLN also seemed ready for serious talks. Obstacles emerge As FMLN diplomatic commissioner Salvador Sanabria told the Observer, “the peace process, even with all these positive elements, is not a mechanical one.” Obstacles emerged during the April talks. Back in El Salvador, right-wing groups published paid advertisements condemning a possible ceasefire and constitutional reforms. A far-right women’s group took out an ad in the obituary column of a prominent San Salvador morning newspaper, suggesting that national assembly representatives who voted for reforms to the constitution would soon find their names listed among the dead. Significantly, no strong message of support for a ceasefire emerged from Washington BILL STOUFFER FMLN leader Antonio Cardenal during April. Only four days into the talks, U.S. General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared on April 8 that El Salvador’s conflict could be resolved “the way it was in the Persian Gulf.” Ten days later, U.S. undersecretary of state Bernard Aronson accused the FMLN of setting the February fire that burned down the offices of El Diario Latino, El Salvador’s opposition newspaper. Aronson offered no evidence for the claim, and the paper’s editor, Francisco Valencia, termed it “suspicious” that Aronson would adopt the Cristiani government’s position when the talks “are at a decisive moment.” Bush administration officials threatened in April to send El Salvador a fleet of Cobra attack helicopters. Army provocation According to the FMLN, the Salvadoran army seized upon the right-wing’s threats and U.S. remarks as an opportunity to harden its posi tion in Mexico City. Army spokespersons accused the FMLN of trying to “split El Sal vador in half” with its ceasefire proposal. Government negotiators even rejected a pre ANDERSON & COMPANY COPPICE TEA SPICES TWO JEPPERSM SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 7.W31 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip a commission to review the human rights records of army leaders. As a final provocation, Salvadoran army troops of the elite Atlacatl Battalion assassinated FMLN leader Antonio Cardenal in Chalatenango during the first week of negotiations. The FMLN refused to leave the negotiating table, although FMLN troops gently reminded the army of the rebels’ capacity by knocking out electricity for the first time in all of El Salvador on April 15. The day before his killing in northern El Salvador, Cardenal, a former Jesuit, gave a press conference on the progress of ceasefire negotiations in which he noted, “after ten years of war we have earned the right to return to political life without them killing us” \(El Mundo, Mixed results Intransigence on the topics of the armed forces and a ceasefire left negotiators with only constitutional reforms to discuss’. The seating of the new delegates to the National Assembly at the end of April allowed the constitutional reforms agreed upon in Mexico City to be passed according to Salvadoran law. Though falling far short of what Salvadorans hoped for in early April, the reforms to the electoral law and to the judiciary do provide a margin for optimism for continued talks in the third week of May. “A final ceasefire is necessary,” said one FMLN spokesperson close to the negotiations. “Another year of war is simply unacceptable for the people of El Salvador.” CHARLEY MACMARTIN Charley MacMartin is a writer living in Austin. His articles appear in Polemicist, the and Toward Freedom. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31