Guerrillas Say They’ve Unified, Vowing To Intensify War
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Five leftist guerrilla armies, whose battlefield success has been dwindling against an improving Salvadoran army, announced Wednesday they will unify into a single armed force.
In an early morning broadcast by the rebels’ clandestine Radio Venceremos on behalf of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a guerrilla leader spoke of new unity in the sometimes-divided movement.
The message was read by Commander Leonel Gonzalez, head of the Popular Liberation Forces, one of five guerrilla groups in the coalition that has been fighting for 51/2 years to overthrow the government.
Gonzalez said the decision to unify into one army was made at a meeting in June in Morazan province, in northeastern El Salvador. But he did not say why there was such a long delay in announcing it or when the actual unification would take place.
There have been frequent squabbles among the various rebel groups as to how to conduct the war.
Against an improving Salvadoran army, the rebels have had generally bad luck on the battlefield, and their ranks are said to be thinning because of desertions and recruitment problems.
By most reckonings, their battlefield strength is about half of what it was when it may have reached as many as 11,000 troops two years ago.
The Popular Liberation Forces, for example, favor the ″popular uprising″ approach to the fight and are involved in trying to move their way back into the cities to gain a support base.
The People’s Revolutionary Army, which operates in the eastern third of the nation, preaches a ″war of attrition″ based on long-range sabotage to wreck the economy and bring the government down.
The fact that Gonzalez was picked to read the message is significant because the radio station is often considered to be the voice for the People’s Revolutionary Army, more than for the entire movement.
Gonzalez’s rebel army is the second largest in the coalition after the People’s Liberation Army and the two groups are the only serious contenders for supremacy.
Gonzalez’s Popular Liberation Forces also has a radio station, Radio Farabundo Marti. But it broadcasts irregularly.
He said of the meeting, ″The conclusions ... are superior to the conclusions of previous meetings. Without doubt we are nearer now to take the steps to unification of our organizations into one organization and one revolutionary army.″
″We have reached a level of unity in our political thought in which substantial differences of strategic character don’t exist,″ Gonzalez said in the broadcast.
The plan as he outlined it appears to be a compromise between the two main strategies.
It calls for an increase in the war on the economy as well as taking the war ″to the capital and the principal cities.″
Much of the Salvadoran war effort is American-funded, and U.S. economic aid of $1.3 billion since the war started in 1979 has kept the economy afloat.
U.S. military aid, additionally, has totaled $537.1 million since 1979, including $123.5 million for the current fiscal year.
The Liberation Front was founded in early 1980, shortly after a civilian- military junta took over the government after a coup had ousted rightist dictator Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero on Oct. 15, 1979.
The Liberation Front is allied with a political coalition, the Democratic Revolutionary Front. They maintain a joint political-diplomatic commission.
On Tuesday, Radio Venceremos has said a man police said had hanged himself in his cell last week was a top leader of one of the guerrilla groups.
The broadcast said Doroteo Arias Gomez, a lawyer, was a member of the central committee of the Armed Forces of National Resistance, one of the groups in the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
Police sources said Saturday that Gomez Arias, 50, hung himself on Friday with his shirt. He had been arrested Aug. 1 with a youth and was being held for investigation at national police headquarters.
A communique from Arias Gomez’s rebel group said police had killed him.