Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Salvador: Talking Works

October 27, 1985

It took six weeks, but the government of El Salvador and the rebels fighting to overthrow it not only negotiated but actually carried out an exchange of prisoners, including the daughter of Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte.

Most of the publicity about the prisoner exchange involved the daughter, Ines Guadalupe Duarte Duran, who was kidnaped with a friend in San Salvador last month. But the exchange also led to freedom for about 30 mayors, members of Duarte's Christian Democratic Party, who had been seized by rebels operating in El Salvador's hinterlands, and the release of 22 political prisoners held by the government, including a handful of key guerrilla leaders. Rebel forces were also allowed to turn over 96 seriously wounded guerrilla fighters to the Red Cross, which evacuated them to foreign hospitals for treatment.

It was a complex agreement that involved not only negotiators for the government and rebel sides but also intermediaries who included leaders of El Salvador's Roman Catholic Church, the government of Panama and even a Socialist member of the West German Parliament. The actual exchange required coordinated moves by groups in widely scattered parts of the country and an agreement by government and rebel forces to a temporary cease-fire. The pact could have broken down at any number of points. The fact it did not is the most hopeful thing to happen in El Salvador in a long time.

It has been 11 months since representatives of the Duarte government and the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front held substantive discussions on ending the civil war that has racked El Salvador for six years and claimed more than 50,000 lives. That dialogue ended with no results when the rebels asked for more concessions than the government was even willing to consider. Now both sides must move quickly to build on the good will generated by the prisoner-exchange and try to renew the dialogue. This time there will be few illusions about the peace process. Everyone knows it will be slow, complicated and frustrating. But, as the prisoner-exchange negotiations proved, it can work.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|