El Salvador government's compliance with peace plan criticized as half-hearted. Is government publicity drive for peace politically motivated?
| San Salvador
Across the capital, curbstones have the slogan ``Duarte - Peace'' spray-stenciled on them. Government newspaper and TV ads proclaim: ``In Guatemala we committed ourselves [to the Central American peace plan] and we're fulfilling it.'' Yet despite the government's publicity offensive, many diplomats and political analysts say the ruling Christian Democrats seem more interested in using the mystique of peace to rebuild their sagging popularity for next year's general elections than in a serious quest for an end to the seven-year-old civil war.
Even Christian Democrats who have favored peace talks are distressed at the handling of the issue. ``There is no political will for peace,'' one party veteran sadly concludes.
European and Latin American diplomats blame the government for allowing the peace talks proposed for Sept. 15 to fall through. They say the government set preconditions that it knew were unacceptable to the leftist rebels - namely, that the rebels agree to lay down their arms.
Political observers criticize the composition of the National Reconciliation Commission, named by President Jos'e Napole'on Duarte on Sept. 7. As stipulated by the peace plan, the commission consists of:
A ``prominent, independent citizen'' - Alvaro Magana, a conservative ex-banker chosen by the military to be president in 1982 when Washington rejected Roberto d'Aubuisson. He will head the commission.
A Roman Catholic Church representative - Marco Ren'e Revelo, the conservative Bishop of Santa Ana. He was named commission secretary.
A representative of the opposition political parties - Alfredo Cristiani, head of the rightist Arena Party. His substitute is Ren'e Roldan, representative of the small Social Democratic Party, the only left-of-center party invited to participate.
A government representative - Rodolfo Castillo Claramont, vice-president of El Salvador and secretary-general of the Christian Democratic Party.
Diplomats interviewed here say that in contrast to Nicaragua's commission - to which the government named a principal opponent - the Salvadorean commission has no such figure. ``They're all sympathizers of the right and the military,'' a Latin American ambassador says. ``With this panel Duarte has closed the political spaces for dialogue.''
Many of the diplomats and political analysts spoken to say they are under the impression that the government's strategy is to give the appearance of scrupulously adhering to the plan while simultaneously taking positions that will allow them to blame the rebels for the plan's failure. Some of these analysts say this might be part of an overall US strategy to deal with the plan.
``What the Americans are doing is waiting for bits and pieces to fall off [the plan],'' a European diplomat says. Mr. Duarte ``is paying lip service to the Guatemala accord but he knows talks won't work,'' says the diplomat. ``I don't think he wants to get embroiled in dialogue this side of the  elections. But it suits him to put the blame on the other side.''
Even if Duarte were serious about a dialogue, political analysts point out that he would still face countervailing pressure from the two major forces that support him - the powerful Salvadorean military and the Reagan administration - despite their public statements of support for the Guatemala plan.
``In the commission, who is for dialogue? Nobody,'' says a West European diplomat. ``They've blocked the possibility of dialogue with this commission.''
But right-wing political parties - traditionally opposed to dialogue - have changed their position and are now calling for dialogue ``without preconditions.'' Still, most analysts are skeptical of the political right's sincerity. They say the right needs to give the appearance of supporting peace in order to enhance its electoral chances.
Electoral posturing aside, diplomats say peace is harder to achieve here than in Nicaragua because the Salvadorean guerrillas, in contrast to the US-financed Nicaraguan rebels, are an indigenous revolutionary movement, independent of external outside support from one source.
Political analysts say the continuing arrests and disappearances of labor leaders and members of other opposition groups does not bode well for national reconciliation. More than a dozen labor activists have been arrested since the peace plan was signed Aug. 7. The head of the university workers union was kidnapped Aug. 31. And the government still refuses to talk with the labor opposition.
``If this were going on in Nicaragua, [international observers] would be going crazy,'' says one political analyst.
The only positive forces for peace, observers say, are the labor movement, the Catholic Church, and international supporters. Costa Rica's President met with rebel leaders Sept. 7. He said he would serve as a mediator to help promote talks.