El Salvador's Negotiated Revolution

Courtesy Reuters

The war in El Salvador is over. On January 16, 1992, in Mexico City’s ornate Chapultepec Castle the government of President Alfredo Cristiani and the rebel Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) formally signed a comprehensive peace treaty, putting an end to 12 years of conflict.

As 1992 began, the scene of America’s most prolonged military involvement since Vietnam presented images unimaginable just a few months before. In Mexico City, after unexpectedly signing the peace agreement in person, President Cristiani strode across the podium to shake hands with all five FMLN commanders as participants on both sides cried openly. In El Salvador a sea of FMLN flags filled San Salvador’s Civic Plaza in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, where the army once massacred political dissidents; the cathedral itself was draped with an enormous banner of the assassinated Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. A ceremony held to observe the commencement of the formal ceasefire was especially poignant: army officers and rebel commanders stood together at attention to sing the Salvadoran anthem on a dais decorated with the flags of El Salvador, the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the FMLN. The rival commandants then accompanied President Cristiani to light an eternal flame in commemoration of the more than 75,000 Salvadorans who died in the tiny country’s war.

Such high emotion has been accompanied by progress on implementing the accords that, among other reforms, would drastically reduce the army, demobilize the guerrillas, dismantle the repressive security apparatus, create a new police force and, for the first time, allow all Salvadorans to participate openly in the political life of their nation. Already, in advance of an expected "purge" of human rights violators, the Salvadoran armed forces have reassigned two dozen ranking officers, including several linked to the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests. The National Assembly has passed an amnesty paving the way for the return of thousands of FMLN combatants, but leaving the door open to try human rights violators on both sides. Rival troops

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