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7 Americans Defy Ban, Join Local Demonstrators in El Salvador

January 04, 1986|United Press International

SAN SALVADOR — Seven Americans riding in a caravan for peace entered El Salvador despite a government ban and joined 400 demonstrators on a journey Friday into the country's most war-ravaged province.

Leftist rebels downed power lines in three northeastern provinces late Thursday, blacking out 70% of the country, authorities said.

As the rebels and army ended a 10-day holiday cease-fire, the air force renewed bombing attacks on suspected rebel positions on Guazapa Volcano, 18 miles north of San Salvador.

Despite the government ban, buses carrying about 400 peace activists, most of them Salvadoran citizens, left San Salvador for the eastern war zone, where the participants planned to travel to the guerrilla-controlled town of Perquin in Morazan province.

Their trip to Morazan coincided with a visit by President Jose Napoleon Duarte to the local army headquarters in Morazan's provincial capital of San Francisco Gotera.

Foreign Marchers Arrive

March organizers tried unsuccessfully to gain government approval for the caravan and to arrange a meeting with Duarte.

About 20 foreign pacifists arrived in El Salvador late Thursday, using previously obtained tourist visas after the Duarte government prohibited members of a self-styled "March for Peace in Central America" from entering the country.

A local march organizer said that seven of the foreigners were Americans who started on the march in Panama.

The participants were expelled from Costa Rica when an angry mob--mostly from a rightist organization--hurled rocks at them, and they came to a standstill in Nicaragua after Honduras and El Salvador refused to let them enter.

The local organizer, who asked not to be identified, said that other members of the group traveled to Honduras to join local peace activists there.

6-Year Civil War

The pacifists had planned to visit La Palma during a five-day journey through El Salvador, where six years of civil war and political violence have claimed an estimated 55,000 lives.

Duarte and the Marxist-led guerrillas who are fighting his U.S.-supported government held peace talks in La Palma in October, 1984, but no further talks were held in 1985.

"We are fighting for an end to the war, no matter where it comes from," said an organizer of the local Committee for Dialogue and Peace.

"That is the path to understanding that must be taken, and that is why we are asking to meet with the president as well as with those fighting in the mountains--with the only objective of seeking peace."

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