Peace Talks May Be Delayed Until After March Elections
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Peace talks with leftist rebels may not resume until after the March elections because of growing differences between President Jose Napoleon Duarte and right-wing legislators, according to Duarte’s chief of staff.
Julio Adolfo Rey Prendes, said, ″The consensus has been broken. It is difficult to talk of dialogue ... when the other forces (in government) refuse to sit down with us because of the electoral situation.″
Elections for the National Assembly are scheduled for March 17, but Rey Prendes, in an interview Thursday, said they probably would be postponed until at least March 30 because of disputes over the electoral law.
He said Duarte feels he needs a ″minimum consensus″ among the political parties in the assembly to continue talks with the guerrillas who have been waging a war against the U.S.-backed government for more than five years.
In recent weeks, even the tenuous support that existed among some conservatives for the talks has been evaporating, with assaemblymen engaged in legislative fights seen as pre-election maneuvering.
Conservative parties control 34 of the 60 assembly seats to 24 for Duarte’s centrist Christian Democratic Party. The remaining two seats are held by members of the Democratic Action Party, who switch votes according to the issue.
The extreme right-wing Republican Nationalist Alliance headed by Roberto d’Aubuisson holds 19 seats. D’Aubuisson, defeated by Duarte in the presidential runoff election last May, has been a constant critic of the peace talks.
Duarte is hoping his Christian Democrats will win a majority of the assembly seats in the March elections, but even his own party officials say chances for that are slim.
Rey Prendes and three other government representatives last met with four rebel leaders in Ayagualo on Nov. 30. The first round of talks, with Duarte participating, took place Oct. 15 in La Palma.
A second government delegate to those talks, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said he had recommended to Duarte that no third meeting be held before the elections.
″I don’t think we’ll meet before the elections,″ the official said. ″Dialogue in a period of elections does damage.″
He said the government negotiating team members had not met since the Nov. 30 talks, and there was no clear idea what would be discussed at a third meeting with the rebels.
Following the November talks, Duarte rejected the rebels’ demands, saying he would not ″lend myself to a tactical dialogue″ until the rebels retracted their plan.
Earlier this month, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Arturo Rivera y Damas, predicted a new round of talks would ″probably″ take place at the end of January.
But a church spokesman, the Rev. Roberto Torruella, said Friday that Rivera y Damas’ statement″was a suggestion, more than based on affirmatives given by either side. Neither side has given any date at all, they’ve just said they are open to dialogue.″
Guillermo Ungo, leader of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Front that is the political ally of the Salvadoran guerrillas, predicted last month that a third round of peace talks would be held in the last half of January.