After months of silence, El Salvador's best known military leader in exile has recently begun publicly endorsing a negotiated solution to the Salvadoran conflict.
Col. Adolfo Arnoldo Majano Ramos, who was ousted, arrested, and then sent into exile by more conservative military men, supports in general terms Mexico's proposals for a settlement of the conflict.
Colonel Majano says he thinks that the guerrilla forces in El Salvador now have more popular support than the government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte and that given a lack of guerrilla participation, the Salvadoran elections scheduled to be held in two weeks will be meaningless. In Majano's view, a negotiated settlement should include all of the country's major political factions.
Although Majano says that he has no interest in becoming a political leader again, some observers say he might be able to play a role in any eventual negotiated solution to the fighting in El Salvador. He has had access to high-level officials in Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica. On a visit to Washington , he is to meet with a number senators and congressmen. Some see him as a potential go-between in the search for a Salvadoran settlement.
The bespectacled, almost scholarly looking Majano was chosen by young military men to represent them in the junta that took power in El Salvador in 1979. But in November 1980, an attempt was made on Majano's life. He was later arrested by more conservative military officers, held for a month, and then sent into exile. He has been living in Mexico but has relatives in the United States.
In an interview with the Monitor, Majano was asked why he is speaking out now. The colonel said that the government in El Salvador was ''deteriorating day by day'' and that this was going to leave the country in ''a very difficult situation'' unless the fighting is stopped. He added that overseas much of the interpretation of the situation was incorrect.
In Majano's view, while the guerrilla forces do commit abuses, most of the killings of unarmed civilians that have occurred over the past few years in El Salvador have been carried out by members of the government security forces working under the protection of high officials. The colonel asserted that despite the widely held view in the United States that President Duarte is a moderate who is trying to end such abuses, Duarte was fully aware of what was happening and had helped to cover up the government's complicity.
Majano said that the Salvadoran government had strong evidence to suggest who was responsible for the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero but that along with military leaders in the Salvadoran junta, Duarte opposed bringing them to trial.
The youthful-looking Majano said there were indications that, despite having Marxists among their leaders, the Salvadoran guerrillas do not want to be part of the Soviet bloc. He said that they had shown some understanding for the security concerns of the United States and that their offer of unconditional negotiations should be accepted to test their goodwill.
Majano said that he himself favored a special relationship between the US and El Salvador. He said that he knew some members of the guerrillas' political front but that he was not linked with them politically. He worked instead as an independent, he said.
The Reagan administration has objected to talks with the guerrilla forces on the grounds that negotiation would give a leftist minority power that it cannot win on the battlefield or at the ballot box.
An American expert outside the US government who agrees with Majano's assessment, however, is Robert S. Leiken, director of the Soviet-Latin American Project at the conservative Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 11, Mr. Leiken said that the Salvadoran military was guilty of widespread human rights abuses and was led by ''increasingly shaky, demoralized, and panicky'' leaders. He argued that reforms were at a standstill and that the campaign for the March 28 elections was being conducted in ''a climate of coercion'' that was favorable to right-wing candidates.
Leiken says he thinks that Mexico's proposals for a solution to the conflict offer the United States a possible way out. The US has said that it is studying the proposals, and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. met with Mexico's foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda de la Rosa on March 14 to conduct additional talks on the subject. In an interview last week with the New York Times, Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo said that he was certain that Cuba was willing to negotiate all questions that are worrying to the security of the United States.
Following a one-day visit to Washington on March 12 by French President Francois Mitterrand, a senior Reagan administration official said that French and American views on the subject of Central America were closer than most people realized. France has supported the Mexican initiative pointing to a regional solution to the Central American crisis. The US apparently received assurances from President Mitterrand that France will make no further arms sales to Nicaragua.