Salvador rebel says armed struggle only way
Boston — For Francisco Altschul, former architect-turned-Salvadoran guerrilla spokesman, the only alternative in El Salvador is ''armed struggle.''
While the elections in his country were hailed by many in the United States as a democratic triumph, Mr. Altschul says that poll ''changed nothing.''
The reason, as he told a recent gathering at Harvard University, is that the ''decisions of the Army with the backing of the US'' continue to control the country.
Recent events in El Salvador underline concern that the elections have not brought peace to the country. There has been a surge of political violence in the months following the March 28 vote. So far, at least twelve Christian Democratic Party officials and activists have reportedly been murdered.
On the political level, the sweeping land reform program introduced by the former government of Jose Napoleon Duarte has been suspended and in some cases overturned by the newly elected Constituent Assembly.
Mr. Altschul is a representative of El Salvador's Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR), the political/diplomatic arm one of the country's guerrilla movements. And he is one of only two rebel spokesman that have ever met officially with the US government.
At one time, however, he was a supporter of former president Jose Napoleon Duarte - ''I even went to political rallies for him.'' He also worked for a time as a civil servant. But today he is determined to overturn the rightest-dominated provisional government in the Constituent Assembly led by former Army major, Roberto d'Aubuisson.
It was while Mr. Altschul was studying at the School of Architecture in San Salvador that he began to realize ''some of the social and economic inequalities present in our society.''
The school, he explained,''was next to a squatter area; that was our laboratory.'' As a result of these inequalities ''you begin to think, what can I do?''
After working at a private non-profit architectural organization, Mr. Altschul was asked to join the Planning Ministry of the central government as a technician. But, after three months he and many others resigned.
''We could see that none of the reforms would ever come through; eventually you see that the only way out is by armed revolt,'' he explains.
''Anytime the people tried to voice their problems, they were not listened to. And so, the revolution is because of this social injustice.''
In November 1980, Mr. Altschul left the country for Mexico City to take his position as a spokesman for the FDR.
As for the current situation, he sees a close parallel between El Salvador and the struggles of Zimbabwe before independence:
''Elections were held, there was a large turnout, and Bishop Abel Muzorewa won 67 percent of the vote. But the left continued to fight because the needed political changes had not come about.
''Eventually, new elections were held and (Robert) Mugabe won; then Muzorewa was only able to get 6 percent of the vote.''
From the viewpoint of the guerrillas, says Mr. Altschul, the chief result of the March elections ''has been to put the most powerful body in the government, the Constituent Assembly, in the hands of Roberto d'Aubisson, a rightist extremist who has been banned from the US for threatening to kill a State Department official.''
Hovever, a Salvadoran diplomaticspokesman argues that the election results show that the populace is firmly behind the parties in power. He says that about 1.55 million people - more than 85 percent of those eligible - voted.
''By this they have rejected anyone looking for a solution through violence.''
Instead, this spokesman says there is a new mandate from the people, calling for economic renewal and reform through democratic processes.
He rejects Mr. Altschul's parallel between El Salvador and Zimbabwe:
''It is like comparing apples and oranges. We have a political system that is 150 years old; Zimbabwe never had such a tradition.''
He adds that the legacy of the tribal system in Zimbabwe creates a society far different than that of El Salvador.