Canada approves aid to ex-rebels in El Salvador

Canada approves aid to ex-rebels in El Salvador Adequate housing, sanitation needed to fulfill terms of ceasefire
(The Globe & Mail Page A10)
Monday, March 09, 1992

San Salvador EL SALVADOR — BY JEAN KAVANAGH Special to The Globe and Mail — Canada and a number of European countries have agreed to provide emergency aid to El Salvador’s former leftist rebels to ensure the logistics of their ceasefire agreement can be fulfilled.

Armed members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front were to have been concentrated in 15 positions throughout the country by the beginning of last week, but former rebel leaders say they need at least another week to do so because of a lack of water, sanitary facilities and housing in their rural bases.

The Salvadorean and U.S. governments say the ex-rebels are breaking the United Nations-negotiated agreement.

Canada has approved $200,000 to clean wells or transport potable water and to install latrines in the camps where FMLN members will live during the nine-month ceasefire, said Diana Castillo, a director of the foundation the FMLN has established for the emergency projects.

Guy Salesse of the governmental Canadian Co-operation Office for Central America, which co-ordinates aid in the region, said Canada agreed to provide the money because the provisions of the ceasefire cannot be fulfilled without adequate housing and sanitation for the former rebels.

But in a country where the U.S.-backed civil war raged for 11 years and bitter political divisions continue over implementation of a national reconstruction plan, both the rightist government and the United States have attacked the ex-rebels for not complying with the peace accord.

Salvadorean President Alfredo Cristiani said the FMLN’s tardiness in concentrating its 7,500 troops is the first major breakdown in the peace process. Last week, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said this marks “the first serious infraction of the accords.”

These comments raised the ire of FMLN leaders, who said the government is manipulating the issue to undermine the peace process.

“The (U.S.) government said once the war was over they wanted to work with all sectors in reconciliation, and here once again we have the United States taking sides,” said Shafick Handel, the FMLN’s elder statesman and one of the five members of its general command.

“We’re not completely in the 15 zones because of logistical problems. There’s a lack of water, sanitary services and housing, and we have to solve all this before winter” and its rains, Mr. Handel told reporters. The tropical rainy season begins in mid-May.

While about 65,000 government troops are based in equipped barracks throughout the country, the FMLN is concentrated in open fields, generally without any installations, its members sleeping in hammocks or on plastic sheets on the ground.

Mauricio Vargas, the general who represented the military in the 20-month negotiations to end the war, said the rebels lived this way for 11 years and are just playing politics to justify their non-compliance with the accords.

“Throughout the war they moved from one area to another without any aid or help, and now they want to live in paradise on earth,” he said.

Ms. Castillo said it’s one thing for small groups of rebels to move around a country at war and another to concentrate groups of 200 to 2,600 in one place for nine months. She said Canada, Norway and the European Community recognize the logistical needs, and their help will ensure the FMLN can comply with the accords.

The full amount of the emergency aid is not yet determined, but she said several million dollars will be needed for “basic necessities,” including food staples such as beans and corn and retraining programs to help the rebels return to civilian life. The first 20 per cent of the former combatants are to leave the FMLN ranks on May 1, and full disarmament is to be completed by Oct. 31.

Canada has both military and human-rights observers on a UN ceasefire-monitoring team, and has provided aid to civilian projects in addition to the funds for the FMLN.