Rebels Praise Senate Move Cutting Aid to Salvadoran Government
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Leftist guerrillas on Saturday commended the U.S. Senate for cutting military aid to the Salvadoran government, saying the move would improve prospects for a negotiated peace settlement.
Salvadoran Defense Minister Rene Emilio Ponce, meanwhile, said Friday night the cut in aid would limit the armed forces’ capacity to act against the guerrillas, but he did not go into details.
In an official statement Saturday, the government repeated its longstanding call for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front to lay down their weapons, and said it would fight them as long as they refused to do so.
″While aggressions by the FMLN continues, our armed forces will continue carrying out professionally its constitutional responsibility to defend the lives, integrity and property of the population,″ a government statement said, referring to the front by its Spanish initials.
The statement was in response to Senate approval Friday of an amendment that would cut in half the $85 million in military aid to El Salvador the U.S. has been providing annually.
The measure, which applies to the 1991 fiscal year, is aimed at forcing the Cristiani administration to negotiate an end to the decade-old war which has claimed more than 73,000 lives.
The conditions in the Senate foreign aid bill are similar to those contained in a House-passed version. The two bills still have to be reconciled by a House-Senate conference committee, but the El Salvador provisions are expected to be in the final version sent to President Bush.
One provision would restore the aid if the rebels pull out of the United Nations-sponsored negotiations, or if they launch a major offensive. Another provision would eliminate military aid altogether if the government breaks off the talks.
So far, all the negotiating sessions since Cristiani took office in June 1989 have ended in deadlock.
″This legislation is without precedent and a defeat of the Salvadoran president’s position of attempting to block the peace talks,″ rebel spokesman Salvador Sanabria said in Washington.
In Saturday’s statement, the government urged the rebels to ″desist from their destructive terrorist actions against the country and stop their irrational attitude of causing more violence, destruction and suffering in the Salvadoran family.″
The rebels have repeatedly rejected proposals for a cease-fire without first reaching political agreement on a number of reforms, including prosecution of officers responsible for atrocities.
Juan Jose Martell, a leader of the leftist Popular Social Christian Movement, said the amendment ″definitely contributes to achieving a negotiated solution to the conflict.″
″The Senate in a pragmatic attitude is revising its policies on Central America and El Salvador,″ Martell told reporters.