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

(Page 2 of 2)

During a recent broadcast by Radio Venceremos, the clandestine rebel radio station, the military commander for the FMLN, Joaquin Villalobos, denounced the elections as an ''imperialist project designed to provide the pretext for intervention'' for the US.

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''If the government and the imperialist power decide to hold the election in the midst of a war, that is their problem,'' Mr. Villalobos said. ''If the war interrupts or molests the election, we are not going to stop it to protect this imperialist project.''

The FDR is composed of political leaders such as Guillermo Ungo, Salvador Samayoa, Ruben Zamora, and Hector Dada, all of whom were high-ranking officials in the 1979 reformist junta. During its attempt to alleviate the oppression and economic disparity, the FMLN carried out terrorist attacks and organized strikes which weakened the fragile coalition government.

Some FMLN leaders now concede that their former opposition to the current FDR leadership, whom they once labeled as ''the enemy,'' was an error.

Some of those in the FDR or sympathetic to it echo the misgivings one can find within some segments of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) here. While PDC followers fear they will be unable to exert pressure on the military to relinquish its political control, some in the FDR likewise worry they will be forced out of the political process by the FMLN if rebel forces come into power.

''If the US does not negotiate with the FDR, as it appears now that it will not,'' said a high-ranking FDR official in an interview in Managua this fall, ''then that does not leave much of a political role for us. There is always the danger that the FMLN will decide they fought the war without us.''

The internal dynamics of the FMLN do not bode well for the emergence of political pluralism or even toleration of dissenting political viewpoints.

Guerrillas have conducted frequent political assassinations and continue to execute those they consider government spies in areas under their control. Most of those executed have gone before a kangaroo court where they were charged by guerrillas with ''crimes against the people.''

A few months ago in the department of Morazan, six youths who returned home from forced military service were shot by the guerrillas. The Roman Catholic priest who said a mass for them was reportedly threatened.

Guerrilla leaders are primarily drawn from the middle class and most are university educated. All were proponents of Marxist social models until the recent rhetorical conciliations. Many here speculate that the FMLN realized its radicalism was only alienating large sectors of possible foreign and domestic bases of support.

Rebel leaders are difficult to pin down ideologically. During the frequent political meetings they hold in guerrilla-occupied towns, they speak specifically about the evils of the current system of government but vaguely about the system they hope to create.