Salvadorean rebel leader looks toward peace process - and home

Ruben Zamora, one of the top rebel political leaders living outside El Salvador, says he wants to return after seven years of exile in Nicaragua. Mr. Zamora, vice-president of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR) - the political allies of the guerrillas - says he would like to come back to El Salvador before Nov. 7, the day the Central American peace plan is supposed to be implemented. The plan signed last month by five regional leaders requires negotiating a cease-fire and issuing amnesty by then.

Still, returning might be difficult. Salvadorean and United States officials have long dreamed of splitting the FDR political parties away from the more radical guerrilla political-military organizations.

But Zamora emphasizes that his return doesn't mean the independent political parties making up the FDR will break their political alliance with the guerrilla umbrella organization Farabundo Mart'i National Liberation Front (FMLN).

Government spokesmen have said Zamora could return and receive amnesty if he makes a public break with the FMLN.

Zamora says he hasn't committed any crime requiring amnesty and the government is hiding behind legal arguments to ``impede the return of people [like himself] and the political presence of an alternative that is truly democratic.''

Zamora was once an important member of Mr. Duarte's Christian Democratic Party. He left the party with many other young activists in March 1980 because he felt Duarte was unwilling to stand up to the military which shared the government with the Christian Democrats. At the time the Army was implicated in massive death-squad killings. Zamora left the country soon after the killing of his older brother, Mario, the country's solicitor general, by death squads.

Zamora helped form a new party, the Popular Social Christian Movement (MPSC), which became a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR). At the time, the FDR was a broad-based organization primarily composed of leftist grass-roots organizations.

The FDR later allied itself politically with the FMLN. On Nov. 27, 1980 the top leaders of the FDR were abducted by the security forces during a meeting and assassinated. Most of the grass-roots organizations comprising the FDR were subsequently destroyed by the government-sanctioned repression.

The FDR is now comprised of Zamora's MPSC and rebel leader Guillermo Ungo's party, the National Revolutionary Movement.

Over the last several years MPSC members have been gradually filtering back into the country, ``testing the waters'' as one member put it. They have opened an office here, but it has no sign on the door. Until now the MPSC has done almost no open political activity. Members say this will change when Zamora returns, and assumes a greater political profile.

Relations between the social democratic FDR parties and the revolutionary Marxist guerrilla organizations have sometimes been difficult. The FDR emphasizes a negotiated political solution to the war while the FMLN still feels a military victory is possible in the long run.

In the past, the FDR has also criticized certain guerrilla tactics such as forced recruitment in 1984 and the assassination of four US Marines in 1985. Most recently, some FDR members seem frustrated that the FMLN isn't moving quickly enough to push dialogue ahead.

Still, says one MPSC member living inside El Salvador, who requested anonymity, ``deep down we believe there aren't any major differences [between the FDR and the FMLN]. The differences are mainly regarding tactics.''

``We don't think the conditions causing the war have changed; and because of that, we don't think the war has lost its legitimacy,'' the MPSC member added. -30-{et

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