El Salvador's incoming Christian Democratic government has demanded the replacement of four top military officers who many civilian and religious authorities say are involved in severe human rights abuses.
Senior Christian Democratic officials say the military high command has been asked to remove the officers before President-elect Jose Napoleon Duarte is inaugurated on June 1.
The purge of these officers before Duarte takes office will leave the high command free of embarrassing or controversial direct intervention in military affairs by the new president, these sources say. Duarte and the Christian Democrats in the past have had testy relations with Salvador's politically powerful military leaders. Many of those in the high command have close relations with Roberto d'Aubuisson, the rightist candidate Mr. Duarte beat in the May 6 presidential election.
The Christian Democrats say the requested purge has yet to be solidified and is ''delicate.''
The party officials refuse to name publicly the officers they want removed. But several privately confirm that the officers are:
* Col. Nicolas Carranza, chief of the Treasury Police.
* Col. Francisco Antonio Moran, president of the Hydroelectric Commission and former chief of the Treasury Police.
* Lt. Col. Mario Denis Moran, military commander of La Paz Province.
* Lt. Col. Roberto Mauricio Staben, commander of the United States-trained ARCE Immediate Reaction Battalion.
Two other officers, Lt. Col. Jorge Adalberto Cruz, military commander in northern Morazan Province, and Air Force commander Col. Juan Rafael Bustillo, are expected to be given new posts within the country, Christian Democratic officials say privately.
''There is a sector of the military where we must see changes,'' says Jose Antonio Morales Erlich, a Christian Democratic official and close confidant of Duarte.
Many observers here contend that human rights abuses by the military will not be brought under control until the structure of the armed forces is changed and their vast political power curtailed.
''The attempts to once again reshuffle a few commanders means nothing,'' says a high-ranking official in the Roman Catholic Archbishop's Human Rights Office.
Lieutenant Colonel Cruz and Colonel Bustillo have been linked to human rights abuses by several municipal mayors, independent labor leaders, and Roman Catholic Church authorities. But their war records and political standing may be so strong and their links with US officials so close that they are not expected to be reproved.
In a May 8 article in The Christian Science Monitor, a knowledgeable source called Colonel Bustillo ''today the great untouchable strong man of the death squads.''
The six military commanders named above have close ties with ARENA political leader Roberto d'Aubuisson.
Colonels Carranza and Francisco Moran, some Christian Democratic sources contend, may be retired or not assigned to new posts.
In this country, alleged death squad leaders and commanders who develop a reputation for gross human rights violations sometimes are transferred to less visible military posts or sent to embassies abroad.
Lieutenant Colonels Moran and Staben reportedly may be sent abroad to serve in the diplomatic corps.
Lieutenant Colonel Cruz is likely to replace Staben as commander of the ARCE Battalion, says a reliable military source. Church and civilian authorities charge that Cruz orchestrated the disappearance of many civilian leaders and that he has run an elaborate, clandestine prison system that permitted torture and the murder of many detainees. Both Cruz and Staben were arrested in 1980, along with Roberto d'Aubuisson and several other ultra-rightist officers, for plotting a coup against the reformist military government then in power.
Colonel Bustillo, who Christian Democratic officials say should not hold any position of power, may be promoted to vice-minister of defense, these sources contend.
Bustillo, like Cruz, appears to have the strong backing of the US Embassy. US officials say both Salvadoreans are ''effective'' military commanders. Their field performance and favored status with US military advisers here appear to have earned them a degree of immunity from transfer or reproof not enjoyed by the other officers.
The Salvadorean military high command has been tight-lipped about the possible shifts of the officers. US officials say they expect changes to occur, but refuse to specify who they think may be transferred.
(Some US congressional staffers say they have heard that another powerful figure, Col. Rinaldo Goelcher, who is one of two commanders of the Salvadorean National Intelligence Agency, may also be replaced, reports Monitor writer Dennis Volman in Washington. It was not possible to confirm this report in El Salvador.)
President-elect Duarte said last week that the Salvadorean high command has created a special commission to investigate human rights abuses within its own ranks. He said that he expected changes to occur ''within the armed forces.''
Armed forces chief of staff Col. Adolfo Onecifero Blandon and Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, the defense minister, are expected to keep their posts.
The demand for the removal of the four officers was accompanied by a promise by Duarte not to contest the power of Casanova or Blandon, now Salvador's most powerful military men, sources say.
The current purge of those associated with rights abuses is the third such purge in the past five months.
In early December more than 10 officers with alleged links to death squads were transferred from intelligence and operational posts to battlefield positions.
Soon after, US Vice-President George Bush gave the Salvadorean government about 20 names of military and civilian leaders with alleged links to death squads. He demanded that those people be expelled or exiled. He also requested the arrest of Capt. Eduardo Alfonso Avila, who has been implicated in the 1981 murders of two US labor advisers and a Salvadorean labor leader.
Avila was initially arrested, but then released and cleared of charges by a Salvadorean judge. Only three people on the Vice-President Bush's list - Maj. Jose Ricardo Pozo, Lt. Col. Aristedes Alfonso Marquez, and Lt. Francisco Raul Amaya Rosa - were sent to diplomatic posts abroad. The others have not been transferred.
The Archbishop's Human Rights Office contends that too much emphasis has been placed on death squads. It contends that majority of some 38,000 civilians who were killed here over the past 41/2 years were murdered by regular Army troops or members of the state security forces.
The armed forces is directly responsible for an average of 76 percent of the 200 to 300 civilians killed each month, the Archbishop's Office contends. If paramilitary squads, believed to be Army troops or members of state security forces in civilian clothing, are included, the figures rise to 99 percent, the rights office says.