Directorate of Intelligence
Office of African and Latin American Analysis3
El Salvador: Consolidating the Peace
President Alfredo Cristiani has set an ambitious course to depolarize Salvadoran politics, reform and strengthen democratic institutions, and rebuild the economy. While he has made significant gains, he continues to face serious financial, acbriirustrative, and political constraints. The officer corps is uneasy of its ongoing purge and restructuring, Cristiani's party suffers internal tensions and ebbing popularity, and the struggle for power within the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) has complicated reconciliation efforts. Moreover, elements on the extreme right and left retain the ability to comrnit selective acts of violence that could uiKlerrnine civil-military relations and fuel disarray within and among the mainstream political parties. In our judgment, diplomatic support and timely financial assistance from the United States and the rest of the international community will be key to consolidating the peace in El Salvador.!
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Advancement of lhe peaceirtually flawless cease-fire2 and the immobilization of all PMLN guerrillas and nearly half of the armed forces-owes much to the critical role played by President Cristiani. He has averted many crises by negotiating directly with the FMLN. domestic interest groups, foreign governments, and the United Nations. His successan on his ability to overtook minor setbacks and focus on major
Cristiani's economic policies have further enhanced prospects foe peace. He hasstructural reforms, such as privatization and tax schemes, and prudentfiscal adjustments.Iristiani has persuaded
allies in the private sector tohas helped
improve relations between business elites and trade unions. Leftist leaders' public recognition of the government's efforts to resolve the country's economic problems also has helped persuade former FMLN rebels to join the Salvadoran mainstream. |
Difficult Road Ahead
I despite his accomplishments, Cristiani will face considerable obstacles to completing the consolidation of the peace process before leaving office nextack of financial, technical, and institutional resources continue to hamper the President's efforts to comply fully with his obligations under the peace accord.
Among the moM critical issues is the distribution of land to former rebel and government combatants.
AnoUier challenge is the establishmentstrong National Civilian Policeade up of both former government troops and rebels, as well as non-partisanraining and deployment of the PNC are behind schedule because of administrative problems and shortages of equipment, facilities, andhe bulk of which depends on promised US and other foreign aid.
' Tb*National Polka waa touched from (be arranl tonea Im ytaix scheduled tot oemobiUzaiioii uetilheat the newcbocWIcd to atuime iu fell aecuriiy role.
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Turning the Mililary
Despite efforts by civilian rightists to generate resistance among officers to negotiations with the HMLN. the armed forces as an institution has cooperated with President Cristiani's pragmatic approach to peace-more out of political convenience, in our judgment,ommitment to democratic civilian rule- Key motives foi miliury coorwratico-continued dependence on US aid. general sympathy with ARENA, and the impending retirement of many senior officers-have thus far muted resentment over recommendations made last fall by the UN-backed, Salvadoran civilian Ad Hoc Commission io purgefficers for human rights abuses and other alleged infractions commuted during the war |
The lack of due process in the Commission's investigations and the ensuing drumbeat of charges against the military by leftist groupsumber of senior officers to file defamation suits against civilian critics andegal battle in the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the Ad Hoc |
To helpmooth transition, the President has promised new job training, lucrative civilian posts, and financial payoffsumber of senior and raid-level officers slated for removal.feeking to avoid the humiliating publicity thai would likc^yfonowmassive^hsm^ has secretly placed many officers on inactive duty with full pay pending separation.
Strengthening civilian control over the armed forces and reducing its budget and force structure Cristiani has made major strides in asserting his constitutional authority over the military. The peace accord has liquidated the National Guard, Treasury Police, and National intelligenceextensions of miliiary power-whileurred.force reductions of nearly SOull year before the deadline mandaKdby_tjSe peace accord. Thfwnguing puigc til the senior otliccr corps, moreover, marks an unprecedented challenge to the traditional autonomy of the armed forces. Nevertheless. Cristiani knows that the mililary retains final veto power on strategic issues. He could never have negotiated with the guerrillas had not the High Command participated in the peace talks and helped set the terras for cease-fire and demobilization. Indeed, the President's delay in completing the purge of top officers reflects the heavy debt ofraditional sense of civilian deference-that he feels the government owes the military. gaj|jj^
Transforming the military's role from internal security to conventumal defense. Disbanding traditional security forces and reducing internal surveillance underscores the military's new focus onore streamlined conventional force for national defense. The military's role will include cooperation with other regional timed forces to avoid border difficallies and to maximize assets needed to counter external threats, such as arms smuggling and narcotics trafficking. Pressure on Cristiani to reengage troops in police-style security activities, however, ia likely to continue. For exarnpleTinTlue ntialTcTrcc"grbWersJrayecalled for military protection offeo^harvest. while public pressure iS Building ruT oepToyment^rAnfiy units to assist undermanned police in summing .the nation'scrimelthough the High Command recendy auth'onzeu' limited training exercises by some Array units in high-crime sectorseterrent, press reports say.iroops will have no arrestcr law enforcement responsibilities.
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Modernizing doctrine and bolstering respect for human rights and civil liberties. The mililary academy is upgrading courseworlt to include more hours of study on modern tactics to reinforce the external security role and on the critical need to protect the civil and human nghts of all citizens. The Cristiani administration has proposed legislation aimed atationwide registration and lottery system for recruitment of draftees; this .should complement government peace efforts to improve social justice by doing away with often violent impressment of peasant youths for military service. Changes in the system, however, are likely to be more cosmetic than substantive. Loopholes almost certainly will be created to shield middle-and upper-class
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youths from national service, and dragooning of recruits from poor neighborhoods probably will continueelective basis to fill occasional military quotas. |
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Reducing military impunity by improving professional training of officers and downgrading the influence of cliques- Generations of officers were indoctrinated as memberspecial social
The year-long run-up io elections4 will be viewed by many observers, particularly outside El Salvador, as the culmination of the peace process. FMLN spokesmen and other leftist politicians appear optimistic that electoral reforms are on track and that the campaign will^ underscore the most inclusive democratic exercise in the country's history. We estirna
the elections next year will be carried off smoothly, fairly, and with results respected by the majority of candidates and constituents. |
The electoral campaign, however, while important both in symbolic and practical terms, will not fully define the consolidation of peace, in our opinion. El Salvador still must grapple with many of the same glaring national problems that precipitatedyear civil war. Effective and timely land distribution to ex-combatants, rapid progress on judicial reform, continued economic growth, and provision of new jobs and social services for the poor will be key to maintaining stability, advancing democratization, andermanent peace.)
A variety of other issues could spell potential problems for consolidating peace over the next year. Violence by criminal elements could escalate dangerously if the new civilian police force cannot be trained, equipped, and deployed expeditiously. Any attempt by the government to use military troops to carry out constabulary functions will riskacklash from the left, especially if official negligence or abuses of authority by the Array come to light Moreover, civil disturbances, caused by militant interest groups-labor, students, disgruntled veterans of the war, widows, mothers of the dead and missing, or. alternatively, right-wing zealots attempting to slow reforms or provoke the left-could spark the resurgence of vigilante and paramilitary groups. Such groups, staffed by experienced combatants with easy access to arms, wouldevere challenge to police and military units charged with restoring order. In this scenario, Cristiani's efforts at national reconciliation and reconstruction could be seriously jeopardized if renewed turmoil threatened international good will, investment, and assisiance. ajj^affeBj
Implications and Opportunities for US Policy
Cristiani is concerned that US attention to Central America, and to El Salvador in particular, may diminishime when he believes strong international support is needed to consolidate the peace process. Some Central American scholars, politicians, and media pundits already are
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complaining thai events elsewhere in the world have diverted aid away from the region. Many Sal vadorans argue that Washington has more to gain from supporting peace in Central America than it did from earlier wartime aid, anduch reduced cost- Moreover, they say, Washington will have the advantage of dealing with actors across the political spectrum, thus helping to allay fears of partiality or collusion with individual interest groups.
Cristiani has tried to counter domestic criticism that he has ceded too much oversight to the international community by increasing diplomatic efforts to generate more benefits to the country from the peace process. We believe San Salvador will seek ways to press Washingtonto extend work permits for US-based Salvadorans. whose annual remittances axeii0 million0 million dollars. Additionally, theprobably will continue to push for expanding special preferences on nontraditional exports and extending deadlines on liberalized terms of trade under the Enterprise for the Americas and Caribbean Basin Initiatives.
US influence in El Salvador is likely to remain substantial, because both the government and the former FMLN rebels recognize how important continued cooperation with Washington and the rest of the international community is to advancing the peace process. On the other hand, both sides will face domestic pressures to resist perceived infringements on national sovereignty.
One way the United States and other actors could strengthen the peace process in El Salvador without being perceived as assuming tooole might be to encourage additional moves by Cristiani to seek greater integration with regional neighbors on political, economic, and security issues. In addition, the Cristiani adnurustration would likely welcome Washington's help in attracting international funding and investment, perhaps from private consortia, to upgrade major infrastructure such as hydroelectric dams and telecommunications, which will be vital to boosting economic growth and the quality of life for average Salvadorans. Modest assistance in El Salvador for grassroots oemocracy-for example, 'seed money" projects for municipal development, education, immunization, and support to small farmers--could become more cost effective as the peace process advances. I
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