El Salvador stability is short-lived

Just when it appeared that El Salvador's joint civilian-military government was beginning to bring about a degree of stability in the violence-wracked Central American land, new violence and charges of army brutality echoed through the country.

The violence led to the closing of 15 foreign firms, several based in the United States, throwing close to 10,000 laborers out of work. The firms gave no indication whether the plants would be reopened later.

Moreover, the British government announced that it was closing its embassy in San Salvador because the government cannot guarantee the safety of the embassy staff.

In a Sunday homily Jan. 20, Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, the Roman Catholic primate of San Salvador, accused government troops of "indiscriminately killing villagers" in the northern part of the country. He said soldiers are using "the pretext of searching for guerrillas" in threatening and doing harm to the villagers.

The area he singled out is an agricultural region where peasants have seized more than 35 ranches, sugar plantations, and sugar mills in an effort to secure a 50 percent wage increase. Hundreds of workers are said to be involved in the seizures.

Confirmation of Archbishop Romero's charges was lacking, but the region has long been a troubled area with clashes between government soldiers and terrorists, guerrillas, and peasants a frequent occurrence.

What all this latest turmoil does to government efforts to win at least grudging support from a majority of sectors in the country remains to be seen.

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