WASHINGTON — Declaring that "human beings are more important than anything," Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte today defended his controversial decision to secure his daughter's release by negotiating with the leftist insurgents who held her hostage for 44 days.
With his daughter, Ines Duarte Duran, seated nearby, Duarte told a breakfast news conference that the outcome of the hostage crisis was a victory for the government because the rebels failed in their aim of using the issue to polarize Salvadoran society.
Duarte said he could have retaliated by arresting the families of the insurgents, but he ruled that option out "because we want the law to be respected." They wanted the president "to lose control of himself but they did not succeed."
Duarte's six-week agony ended last week when Duarte Duran, her kidnaped companion, Ana Cecilia Villeda, and 22 provincial mayors were set free in exchange for the release of a score of political prisoners and safe passage out of the country for 96 wounded guerrillas.