SAN SALVADOR — Marxist-led guerrillas broke off peace talks with the government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte on Thursday and announced a new military campaign in response to the killing of a human rights leader.
"Faced with the escalating wave of repression, we have decided not to participate in the talks with the government regarding a cease-fire or other aspects of the regional peace accord, scheduled to be held in Mexico City Oct. 30 to Nov. 4," said a statement made public by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, the rebels' umbrella group.
Government spokesman Roberto Viera said the government had not been officially notified of the decision by the talks' mediator, Arturo Rivera y Damas, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador.
"We will first see what the archbishop says, and we believe we should continue by rational means to try to end the war," Viera said. "We should not become discouraged or lose faith, but this sets back the process."
Herbert Ernesto Anaya, 33, president of the Human Rights Commission, a private Salvadoran organization, was slain Monday. Anaya was an outspoken critic of the government and armed forces and had been arrested last year by state security forces.
The Human Rights Commission and the guerrillas blamed government security forces for Anaya's death, a charge denied by authorities. President Duarte said that the rebels may have a killed Anaya to create a martyr.
"They (the extreme left) have been looking for a dead man for a year," the president told a news conference. "Whether they did it themselves or someone did it for them, they've found him."
Thursday's statement by the Farabundo Marti Front said that the insurgents may choose to continue talks with the government at a future date, but their underground radio statement also announced a new military campaign throughout the country.
"Peace for the criminals who capture and kill the people has ended," the broadcast said. "We have begun a new military campaign called 'justice and punishment for the country's criminals' in response to the criminal assassination of Herbert Anaya."
Thousands of demonstrators faced riot police and troops in a tense confrontation after a march through San Salvador on Wednesday to protest Anaya's killing. There were, however, no reports of injuries or arrests.
There also have been reports of other protests and increased rebel combat activities in response to the killing.
The guerrillas held face-to-face talks with Duarte Oct. 4 and 5 and agreed to continue to meet outside the country to attempt to negotiate a cease-fire, as called for under the Central American peace plan initiated by President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica.
Talks were held last week in Caracas, Venezuela, but produced few results, and another round was scheduled in Mexico City next week.
At a news conference after returning Wednesday from a two-week trip to the United States and Europe, Duarte announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Anaya's killers and promised a thorough investigation of the slaying.
He added that he has formed a special commission to investigate the killing. Similar commissions, such as one still investigating the 1980 killing of this country's Roman Catholic primate, have had little success in the past.