Resignation threat shakes tottering El Salvador junta

In El Salvador, trouble never rains but it pours. Or so it would seem as the country's buffeted junta, weathering almost daily disorders and vicious verbal attacks from both the left and right, faces its most serious tempest to date:

Col. Adolfo Arnoldo Majano, one of two military men on the five-member junta, is threatening to resign.

If he carries out the threat, the resultant crisis could tear the junta apart and leave El Salvador without any real government. The United States, playing an active role, is trying to keep the colonel from stepping down.

Colonel Majano is angry over what he perceives as a swing to the right by the junta -- away from the middle ground that has characterized it for the past eight months.

"From the minute I consider the government headed down the wrong path, and I don't have the power to comply with the responsibilities given me to produce social changes in a democratic way, there will be nothing for me to do," he says.

The Majano resignation threat came as unofficial tallies put the death toll since Jan. 1 in El Salvador's continuing violence at close to 3,000. At least 250 were killed last week. This violence has sharpened the long contest between the left and the right to the point that a virtual civil war exists in the country.

The junta, which just extended for one month the state of emergency under which it governs, stands in the middle of the fray. It is trying to bring about change, but to do it within the existing system.

Colonel Majano has been regarded as a key factor in this effort, but he has lost considerable political stature in recent weeks following his arrest of Maj. Roberto D'Abussion, a rightist officer accused by Colonel Majano of plotting to overthrow the junta.

The colonel acted unilaterally, to the displeasure of other junta members and officers. The officers voted to give command of the armed forces to Col. Jaime Abdul Gutierrez, the other military man on the junta.Colonel Majano had been regarded the more powerful, but no longer.

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