The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 8, 1981 · Page 16
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page 16

Publication:
Location:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 8, 1981
Page:
Page 16
Start Free Trial
Cancel

Sunday. Fob. X. l.M Philadelphia Inquirer El Salvador returns to old routine of ritual slaughter Ifi-A By GuyGugliotia Knight Rtdder News Service - MEXICO CITY Kl Salvador's civil war, which opened the new year with a louder bang than expected, has settled back into its old rhythm of ritual slaughter. For the Salvadoran "people," the dwindling pool of hearts and minds that is supposed to be getting something out of all of this, February's first week was vintage: Rightists blew up the Nicaraguan embassy; leftists blew up two gas stations; a scattering of mangled, almost unrecognizable corpses littered the hinterlands and several dozen noncom-batantsdied by mistake. For El Salvador's leaders, the hodgepodge of politicians, army colonels, guerrilla chieftains and intellectuals who claim to speak for the various contenders in the dispute, it should be obvious that the war, such as it is, is still at stalemate. The guerrillas' "final offensive," which jumped off amid great fanfare on the weekend of Jan. 10, ran aground almost immediately, the victim of popular indifference. The Salvadoran citizenry, terrorized instead of politicized, simply tried to get out of the way. The military-civilian government, however, proved itself unable to capitalize on the guerrillas' failure. Lacking the resources and perhaps the will to track down and trap the guerrillas in their northern strongholds, the army's "counteroffensive" has never gotten started. Still, despite a status quo that suggests that El Salvador may fight several more rounds before it reaches even a quarter-final offensive, recent weeks have brought profound, albeit subtle, changes in the way the game is played. . The stakes have been more clearly defined, the ante raised and some of the players changed all, one imagines, to gain the critical bit of leverage that will enable one side or another to force the matter to a conclusion. The most significant adjustment has been President Reagan's arrival in the White House, an event quickly followed by signals that Washington intends to do everything it can to stop the march of socialism through Central America. El Salvador appears to be the place the new administration chooses to make a stand. Carter's machinery y Ironically, much of the machinery needed to implement this policy already had been put in place during President Jimmy Carter's final days in office. Some of the changes were tangible: The United States resumed military aid to the Salvadoran junta, a decision amplified within a few days to include guns and ammunition as well as the nonmilitary assistance mandated earlier. Other changes were ideological-Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government was serving as a conduit for "massive" arms shipments to the Salvadoran guerrillas, U.S. sources said. The United States wanted it stopped and was prepared to risk its policy of conciliation with the Sandinistas. At first it was thought that the changes were requested by the Reagan transition team and accepted by Carter to give Central American policy a bridge across administrations. Later, however, the suspicion grew that the Carterites had acted alone, alarmed because the quality and quantity of weapons mustered by the guerrillas through the Nicaraguan connection far surpassed intelligence estimates. In any case, it is clear that the Reagan stable is comfortable with what is in place. The change in administration was expected to be particularly stormy in Central America with Carter conciliation clashing sharply with Reagan Red Scare. Instead, owing to the Carter administration's Ilth-hour toughening, the transition was a great deal smoother han anticipated. Resumption of military aid was a convenient signal that Reagan intended to stand by the Salvadoran junta and support its armed forces in a prolonged war against the left. And in Nicaragua, U.S. Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo continued to lean on the Sandinistas, so far, according 10 one source close to these talks, "without success." This boded ill for ihe future of U.S.Nicaragua relations, but no matter. Nicaragua is expendable The Reagan team's priority interest in Central America is to stop the spread of Marxism at the Nicaraguan border. At this point, Nicaragua itself seems expendable. El Salvador presents a somewhat muddier picture. The Reagan administration, like Carter before it, supports the year-old coalition government of moderate military officers and Christian Democratic Party politicians, the so-called "center" solution sculpted by the Carter State Department and its ambassador in San Salvador, Robert White. But White, a quick-witted Boston liberal with an uncommon ability to infuriate such Republican heavyweights as Sen. Jesse Helms, was one .of the first to get the ax from the new administration. He was replaced by "interim ambassador" Frederic thapin, another career diplomat currently working in a liaison job at the Pentagon. Undaunted, even at the end, While said, "I have this slightly guilty feeling that I'm taking up a disproportionate amount of God's time." ". His departure was thus no surprise, but it may have unfortunate conse-quencs for the relationship between the Salvadoran army and the Christian Democrats led by Jose Napoleon Duarte. president of the four-member junta. White several times described Duarte as "a master politician," and provided strong support for the Christian Democrats' efforts to con- Analysis struct the lattice-work of reforms expected to serve as the underpinning for El Salvador's democratic future. Throughout his stint, White made it clear that the reforms, the Christian Democrats and the armed forces were part of the same Unsupported package. Now, however, with White gone, the military aid already arriving and the Reagan administration clearly intending to stick with El Salvador come what may, Duarte's chances for survival suddenly seem less firm. "Duarte must try to get a political base, and there is a danger he may alienate the military, who could feel that he is betraying them by pursuing partisan activity," said one analyst close to the Salvadoran government. The key difficulty is that soldiers weaned on 50 years of dictatorship are totally unfamiliar with anything resembling traditional Western-style campaigning. They also have difficulty understanding a political system that doesn't come out of a gun barrel. If Duarte is the master politician that White thinks he is, he will be able to educate his own colonels in the desirability of partisan activity as a means to build popular support critical for the establishment of any meaningful government in El Salvador. If he fails, however, he and the party could be cast out for sullying the honor of the government with cheap politics. White had acted as a buffer between the civilians and the colonels, but now he is gone. More important, the United States has decided not to abandon El Salvador no matter who rules. Duarte could be come a burden that the army, in the final analysis, need not bear. The basic points of view, then, for the Reaganites are two: Nicaragua can go; El Salvador cannot. The underlying assumption is that Central America is a Cold War battleground in which Cuba and the Soviet Union are seeking Marxist domination of the region. The Soviets and the Cubans supply the Salvadoran guerrillas, the United States supplies the government. Washington has had some success promoting its opinions. Few objective analysts of Central America's troubles seriously doubt that Nicara- I gua is a pipeline for arms shipments to the guerrillas. The danger is that in treating El Salvador as strictly an East-West confrontation, one tends to lose sight of what the civil war is all about. ! A feudal society dominated by landed oligarchy with support from ' armed forces well-schooled in re- pressioo, El Salvador was, and still Is,' lertile ground for revolution Under Carter and White, reforms 5 were considered at least as important ; as the regional Cold War. Under Reagan it's Cold War first, reforms second. SHOP ALL BAMBERGER STORES TODAY 3 THE ATARI GAME PLAN: SAVE s 25 ON THE VIDEO COMPUTER SYSTEM f WITH "COMBAT" GAME CARTRIDGE. SALE SI65" .W.V.v.v . 1 ,v. -.u.w.i.i.k g.:pM.wiiuHnuiMUtwWeW X K " M .1 . '-VUV I "V 'MOT , . Af I 'liaSiBWMw tommuKW!?' ' yyw Miti(iwM ! I" j "pl t 3 ' Vjr : . iMiMiiiMjiiMmjui J"2o;pta!s.4M - i -f s JL w ' t SAVE $4 ON EVERY OTHER CARTRIDGE, ' BUY 4 AND GET A $IO STORAGE CASE AS A BONUS (A816-77) It's like having your own electronic game center. Play with friends, or take on Atari " . Just plug in the controls, slip in a cartridge and select the level of difficulty. Hooks right up to your TV and youldon't have to unplug it to watch regular programming. Cdmplete vyith 2 joysticks, 2 paddle controls, TV switch box and AC adapter. Just 400 in all Bamberger stores. Regularly $190. t SAVE ON SPACE INVADERS, BREAKOUT", SKIING AND DOZENS MORE TITLES IN STOCK Y II II SALE SI9 Regularly $23 Golf Night Driver Skiing Street Racer' SALE $28 Regularly $32 Adventure Bridge Championship Pele Soccer Dodge 'Em" Maze Craze Space Invaders QAI C Regularly $40 Indy 500 Backgammon Video Chess Breakout" Bowling Boxing Circus Atari'" Fishing Derby Order by mail or phone for delivery in New Jersey and our delivery areas in N.Y., Pa.. Del. and Md. Phone f0Qi ft6:S 44 J J or your local ' Bamberger Teleservice number or write. 'There is a $3 delivery charge. Sorry, no C.O.D.'s under $150. C.O.D.'s over $150 and under $500 require a 20 deposit and 2.25 CO D. tee or $100 deposit. C.O.D. fees are in add.tion to delivery charges. Sale prices for merchandise on this page are in effect through Sunday. February 22 Please note: "Regularly" connotes Bamberger's regular day-m, day-out prices. Electronic games at all Bamberger stores. fThe warranty for this product is enclosed with the product. Or write to Bamberger's Warranty Office, P.O. Box 1 10. Newark, N.J. 07101 CHARGE IT IT'S SO VERY CONVENIENT OPEN A BAMBERGER'S ACCOUNT Shop Bambergers Cherry Hill, Deptford. Oxford Valley, Springfield. Quaker Bridge, Lehigh Valley, Montgomery, and Christiana Mall, Del. Monday through Saturday 10A.M. to 9:30 P.M. Sunday noon to 5.

What members have found on this page

Get access to Newspapers.com

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 20,900+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free