SAN SALVADOR — Nearly six weeks after President Jose Napoleon Duarte's daughter was abducted, leftist rebels on Monday acknowledged responsibility for the kidnaping, saying it was part of their war to bring down the U.S.-backed government.
In a clandestine radio broadcast, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, an alliance of five rebel groups, said the kidnaping and a rebel attack on the army's military training school two weeks ago have brought on a crisis for the government.
Political observers interviewed here agree that the kidnaping has hurt Duarte politically and put the ruling Christian Democrats on the defensive, but they say they do not believe that Duarte's government is threatened.
Rightists Assail Duarte
The rebel broadcast came as right-wing groups began to publish newspaper advertisements criticizing Duarte's handling of the kidnaping negotiations. There have also been reports of dissension within the military over the kidnapers' demand that political prisoners be freed in in return for releasing Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran, the president's daughter.
The Farabundo Marti front only recently began referring to the Sept. 10 kidnaping of Duarte Duran and her friend, Ana Cecilia Villeda, over Radio Venceremos. Previously, the government and the church had ascribed the kidnaping to a formerly unknown group, the Pedro Pablo Castillo command of the Farabundo Marti front.
A Roman Catholic Church source close to the negotiations said it is believed that the Armed Liberation Forces, the armed wing of the Communist Party, made up the name of the commando unit that carried out the abduction, and that the broader Farabundo Marti front leadership later assumed responsibility for a fait accompli.
The rebels are asking for the release of political prisoners in exchange for Duarte Duran, and for more prisoners and the evacuation of their wounded combatants in exchange for 23 mayors they kidnaped and have held since last April.
Church officials said last week that the government and the guerrillas agreed to handle the two matters separately and that Duarte would be released by the weekend.
But the negotiations bogged down, apparently when freedom for Duarte Duran became linked with the release of the mayors.
Panamanian officials and West German Parliament member Hans-Juergen Wischnewski, vice president of the Socialist International, have intervened in the negotiations. Church sources said Wischnewski carried messages from Cuban President Fidel Castro and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega pressuring the rebels to release Duarte Duran.
Salvadoran Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas and other negotiators were in Panama on Monday continuing their efforts to resolve the case.
In Monday's radio broadcast, the rebels referred to Duarte Duran, 35, as a "Christian Democratic official." Duarte Duran, the mother of three, is general manager of the pro-Christian Democratic radio station, Libertad, and was a private secretary to her father during his 1984 presidential campaign.
"Nationally and internationally, the capture of the Christian Democratic official, and the attack and takeover of the armed forces military training center, are recognized as detonators, as intelligent operations of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, that have precipitated . . . the collapse of Duarte's dreams of grandeur," the radio said.
The guerrillas launched a surprise attack on the U.S.-built military training school in the eastern province of La Union on Oct. 10, killing at least 42 recruits and soldiers and wounding 72 others. It was their largest military assault in nearly a year.
"The unity and consolidation of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and the Revolutionary Democratic Front have guaranteed the concretization of the people's victory," the broadcast said. It continued:
"The capture of Ines Duarte and the attack on the armed forces military training center, in the framework of an intense action of wearing down and destabilizing the regime, have been detonators of the most profound Christian Democratic crisis."
The Revolutionary Democratic Front, the unarmed political wing of the rebels, has refused to comment on the kidnaping.
Criticism From Abroad
The rebels have been criticized abroad for the kidnaping. In a broadcast Friday, they justified the abduction, saying that it exposed human rights violations under Duarte.
The government has not been able to account for nine of the 34 political prisoners whose release the guerrillas have demanded. Officials say the nine were never in custody, but the rebels charge that they were captured, tortured and then killed by the armed forces.
The guerrillas, claiming that "there is practically no peasant family in the country who has not had one of its members assassinated . . . or jailed by the Christian Democrats," called the kidnaping "a little lesson in justice."
Right-wing extremists, in a newspaper ad Monday, chastised Duarte for putting his family before the good of country and not paying as much attention to the kidnaped mayors as to his abducted daughter. Before his daughter was kidnaped, Duarte had refused to meet the rebels' demands for the mayors.
"We lament the pain of a father before the kidnaping of a child, but we ask, 'Is he the only one in our country and at this moment with such pain?' " the ad said, alluding to other rebel kidnapings and killings during the six-year civil war.
'How Will It Be Explained?'
The ad, placed by the National Republican Alliance, or Arena party, asked: "What else will we deliver if there are other similar acts? . . . How will it be explained to the soldier who captured these armed men who have been liberated and for whom they are mutilated, without legs, arms and in wheelchairs, that all of their sacrifice was in vain?"