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On Salvador's ballots, the fragmented left is felt but not seen

By Chris HedgesSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / May 7, 1984

San Salvador

Sunday's presidential election took place without the participation of the insurgent forces here. Rebel leaders contend that security could not have been guaranteed for their candidates, party workers, or potential party members.

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The leftist opposition in El Salvador is composed of the Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition of five armed guerrilla factions. The FMLN has a tenuous alliance with the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR). The FDR, which is composed primarily of dissident Christian Democrats, represents the guerrillas politically.

The divisions and antagonisms within various groups that form the rebel front are immense. These divisions have caused serious ruptures within the rebel forces in the past, and they have never permitted a clear political consensus from the left.

The FDR is widely considered to be social democratic in its political orientation, while the leaders of the FMLN hold to various interpretations of Marxism.

Ostensibly, the rebels have changed their political agenda markedly during the past 41/2 years of conflict - publicly abandoning their earlier calls for hard-line Marxist political and economic systems.

At present the left proposes a political solution whose principal elements, outlined in the ''government of broad participation'' plan of October 1982, include:

* A direct share in power by the FMLN-FDR in a transition government that would include other political parties and the representative political groups of the middle class and the private-enterprise sectors not tied to the oligarchy.

* The ''purification'' of the Army to include soldiers from the rebel army and some from the present Army who have not been implicated in killings outside of combat.

* A mixed economy with rigorous reforms in the agrarian sector, financed by foreign trade.

* A nonaligned foreign policy, including a relationship of mutual respect with the United States. The left's plan would also offer Washington as well as El Salvador's Central American neighbors a reciprocal security treaty.

* The right of El Salvador to choose its own political development free of foreign interference.

* Full rights of trade-union organization and assembly, a respect for human rights, and freedom of expression and movement.

The problem with the left in El Salvador is that despite the official claims of unity, no one group appears to represent it. The FDR, while publicly the most visible of the forces making up the left, does not command any military power and has often proved out of touch with the aspirations of the guerrilla leaders now directing some 10,000 troops against government forces.

The FDR announced in 1982 that the left would not disrupt the elections for delegates to the Constituent Assembly, yet some guerrilla factions harassed voters and in a few places attacked polling centers. The FDR again announced that the guerrillas would not interfere in the March 25 presidential election, yet civilians in guerrilla zones say insurgents collected their state identification cards before each of the two rounds of voting to prohibit them from casting ballots. There were again isolated cases of the guerrillas' sabotaging voting paraphernalia.