SAN SALVADOR — In a Mass celebrating El Salvador's Independence Day, Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas on Sunday denounced the kidnaping of President Jose Napoleon Duarte's eldest daughter, while reminding military and political leaders that she is just one of many victims of this country's civil war.
Without specifically naming anti-government guerrillas, Rivera y Damas also warned that if the kidnaping of Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran was "politically motivated," it could further weaken prospects for peace talks between rebels and the government. The talks have been stalled since November.
Duarte Duran, 35, was abducted with a friend last Tuesday as the two arrived at the New University of San Salvador. Duarte Duran's driver was killed in the attack and her bodyguard was wounded.
Reuters news agency reported Sunday that people claiming to be the kidnapers have made brief contacts with the government but that officials have not been able to prove that the calls were from the real abductors. No negotiations have taken place.
It is not known whether the kidnapers were members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the umbrella group for five rebel groups fighting the Duarte government.
Government officials say privately that they believe leftist guerrillas were responsible for the kidnaping, but rebel radio stations have not commented on it.
The government has captured several guerrilla leaders in recent months. Some officials say the rebels may wish to seek their return in a trade.
The captive rebels include Nidia Diaz, a commander of the Central American Revolutionary Workers Party, and Americo Mauro Araujo, a high-ranking Communist Party leader. The guerrillas also allege that the government captured Yanet Samour and Maximina Reyes, two commanders of the People's Revolutionary Army, but officials deny having them in custody.
In his homily celebrating the 164th anniversary of El Salvador's independence from Spain, Rivera y Damas said he is praying that Duarte Duran will be returned quickly. He added, "We also are praying for all the other brothers who are deprived of their freedom for political reasons or because they are victims of a kidnaping for political or economic reasons."
Many of those people "maybe because of their humble position have not earned a headline in the newspapers," Rivera y Damas said.
After the Mass, President Duarte, military and government leaders and the diplomatic corps walked from the Metropolitan Cathedral through crowded streets to Plaza Libertad. There, Duarte delivered a tearful Independence Day speech, saying he has "never felt a greater pain" than that over his daughter's kidnaping.
"There is no moral reason assisting (the kidnapers) . . ., there is no law in the name of which they can carry out this infamy and hate," Duarte told a somber crowd. "With this kidnaping of my daughter they looked to torment a father, which of course they have done, but they also have provoked the anguish of a mother . . . and the pain of a whole country."
Several blocks away from the Duarte rally, labor unions and the Committee of Mothers and Families of Political Prisoners, Disappeared and Assassinated held a counter-rally, contending that the country is not yet free or independent.
The committee of mothers, which has often protested against the government, sent a letter to President Duarte's wife, Ines, saying they, too, feel her pain and wish for the return of all their children. They say that more than 5,000 people have disappeared during the country's 5 1/2-year civil war and that 55,000 others have died.