"This is going to be an apolitical police department. It is going to be an institution that serves the people . . . and protects. . . . The people who work there have to view it as a job like any other job, not subject to a barracks or recruitment. After eight hours, they return to civilian life," he said.
The accords state that a majority of the new police officers will be civilians, but allows for a minority of former rebels and police to join. All of the officers, Arbizu says, will be treated alike.
"These are unarmed civilians who will be joining. They will no longer be FMLN (rebels) or police. They are all Civilian National Police. We cannot have three classes of Civilian National Police," he said.
There will be other pressures on Arbizu as well. Police in El Salvador often have used extreme violence to put down leftist political demonstrations and strikes, and against acts of civil disobedience such as the occupation of public buildings.
Now, as the left returns to legal politics and, presumably, to some of these tactics, Arbizu will have to decide if and when to use police against protesters. His police will also be expected to investigate any future political violence in a country that has seen very few political crimes probed--whether they be the murders of thousands of civilians by right-wing death squads or the assassinations of rightist politicians by rebels.
Arbizu is aware he will be walking a political tightrope. When asked about such probable situations, an otherwise chatty Arbizu becomes the cautious lawyer. He refuses to discuss "hypothetical situations."
"My position is so delicate," he says. "I am going to have to be most prudent. . . ."
Those who criticize the selection of Arbizu point to his nervousness. He's not a leader who will formulate new ideas, they say, or stand up to the military. He isn't strong enough.
Others say he is acceptable to both sides and, therefore, may be the only man for the job.
"If the tide goes in favor of human rights, he will go, too," said a leftist politician who asked not to be identified. "But he's not going to go against the tide and say, 'Here, I am. Kill me first.' He won't be heroic, but he has integrity and honesty and maybe that's what's needed right now."
Name: Ernesto Arbizu Mata
Title: Designated coordinator of Civilian National Police.
Career: Salvadoran treasury secretary, 1979. Comptroller general 1980-82. Headed Banco Capitalizadora. President of nonprofit Fundasal that built housing for poor, 1980s. Business lawyer in private practice.
Personal: Honest, cautious. Has wife, four daughters.
Quote: "It is very clear to me that I will be in the eye of the hurricane."