Despite the erosion of his popularity and disenchantment with the performance of his administration, El Salvador's President Jose Napoleon Duarte must be credited with some important gains. During the two years remaining in his term, Duarte may be able to bring his country's democratization process closer to a resolution than it has been since the military coup of Oct. 15, 1979. But while still dealing with adversities, Duarte also has the challenge of dealing with the consequences of his own success.
The survival alliance between Duarte's Christian Democratic Party and the armed forces has held together, preventing the disloyal right from overthrowing the fledgling regime and forcing the leftist guerrillas to change tactics and scale down their operations. Basically, the violent opposition has failed to capitalize on the weakness of the government. The disloyal right, the most formidable short-term adversary, has been reduced to play the spoiler--opposing redress of human-rights violations, denouncing reformist legislation, thwarting attempts at economic reactivation. The guerrillas, the most serious long-term problem, have done a formidable job of devastating the country's infrastructure and imposing a war economy on the majority of Salvadorans.
The right's best card is to attack the sometimes sloppy and sophomoric economic policies of the administration, and to offer itself as a reasonable alternative. But that alternative is presented in shrill and unreasonable overtones. Two serious problems remain with the Salvadoran private sector. One is that its economic model is not linked to a realistic vision of contemporary Salvadoran conditions. For example, Carlos Borja Letona, the president of the most militant business group, last December demanded a reduction of the budget, a renegotiation of the debt, the privatization of state enterprises, no more subsidies for autonomous agencies and a freeze in public employment. In short, he was faulting the government for failing to institute fiscal orthodoxy in the middle of a civil war.