Past Speakers of the: LANDON LECTURES

Landon Lecture by Jose Napoleon Duarte,

President of El Salvador
Nov. 2, 1984

by Jose Napoleon Duarte

I had prepared for this morning a written speech which expresses the sentiments that I have concerning democracy and concerning the process of my country. But, on my way down I started to think over, and I said, I cannot waste this beautiful opportunity to be back in the University, to remember my Notre Dame student time and to remember my life in the school conditions, to try to explain to the people of the University what happened in La Palma.

I think that what we made in La Palma explained what is happening in the whole country. It gives an idea of the process of confrontation of ideologies, and in a forum like this, you have to excuse my lack of knowledge of the political science theories, but this is the way I feel, and this is the way I see it. Therefore, let me forget for a moment this written speech, and I will try to explain what I think what is my concept of what happened in my country, and what is the concept, in my opinion, of the left and the revolutionary people, and what are the controversies between these two concepts. And then you will see why I have asked for this La Palma meeting, and you will also see why I made this offer of peace to my country. For that, I'll go back to school and I will use the blackboard, and I thank you for this opportunity. So let's see what I can do with this blackboard.

I want to say another remark. This is the first time that I'm going to try to present this, so I might make mistakes on the presentation, and especially on the language, but you have to excuse me.

All right. Now, here we go. This round thing is supposed to be the ideology, any ideology of any force. And this is the reality, any reality. Any force, political force or ideological force, always strives to change the realities into what they think is the ideal. And for that they establish a strategy in which they want to move this reality into their ideology. This is for everybody.

So the communists, in 1970, started to analyze the reality and tried to present a strategy to move this reality to the way they thought. They established, then, the system of violence, the popular prolonged war strategy. They used the violence in order to destabilize this reality which was, at that moment, inserted into the capitalistic . . . and here I'm going to use an academic word ... a liberal capitalistic structure. By liberal I don't mean your American concept of liberal, but I mean the European concept of liberal, which is conservative.

So, the conservative groups had a real control of all the reality of El Salvador. In 1970, the communists decided to confront this situation. Obviously, there were other ideologies which wanted also to change this reality. But for many years, the people who controlled the reality, the rightist groups, decided to eliminate all of them. They established an hegemony of power. This hegemony of power was based on a political party, the official party, the government, the absolute control of the government, the absolute control of the economy, the absolute control of the army, the military people, and the support of the international forces. This is why many, many years ago I said that the United States was leading in democracy, but it was exporting dictatorship, because they were supporting a dictator.

So these forces were the only available and possible forces in the country. They tried to eliminate everybody else. And they established a dictatorship for 50 years. So this is a very strong force, and the reality was absolutely controlled by these forces. This is the reason why, since there were no other means, the communists thought that this was the moment to confront this reality. So they established the method, the strategy to obtain a goal, and their goal was the violent revolution.

This is how it started, the whole process of political violence. But when this scheme had already started, there was a group of military people who analyzed the situation and thought that they had to dismantle this hegemony of power. And by dismantling it, they would start changing the structure. So they created another concept, the democratic revolution. And they established a new strategy, democracy. So they started to dismantle this and made a coup d'etat in October 1979 and they eliminated the official party. They eliminated the concentration of power in the government. They started changing the army, and at the same moment, because of the conditions of the policies of the United States, there was also a change in the international situation. So, there was a change here, too. The only thing left was the economic power.

So this is the reason why this democratic revolution and this strategy meant the reforms, the agrarian reform, the bank reform in order to reduce the power of these forces, the political power, not taking away their money, but taking away their power. So the strategy of the concentration of the rightist force was diminished. That made it possible for the reality to start moving away from this concept. Of course, the extreme left, according to their strategy and according to their violent concepts, started to move a little better in that direction. But also, the reforms started to move.

What happened was that the reality moved. Instead of moving in the direction of the communist ideology, it came up to a new point in the direction of the democratic reality because the right started to hold back. So they reorganized this structure by creating a political party of the extreme right which is called ARENA. They created a provisional government in which they had a very important control of the national assembly. They strengthened their economic control, and they created the death squads to replace the actions of repression in the country. They even came to the States to obtain international support. So, the right created this structure in order to act against the communists, and also against the democratic solution because they were against the reforms.

At the same time, the communists attacked the rightist groups. But they didn't like the idea of having a democratic solution, so they also attacked the democratic solution. So you see, this is a triangle, and in the middle was the reality, and it started to move, and it moved in the direction of democracy. This is important to understand.

So according to my theory, I believe that at this moment there is a definite move, a definite change between the old reality and the new reality.

But the communists did not change their strategy. They still think that the violent revolution and the strategy of violence in the popular prolonged war is the solution. So they wrote a new document in 1980 and another in 1983, and all are based on two things: the antioligarchy and the antiiimperialism. There is a difference in these three documents, but the three are based on this concept: they are not changing their methods, and they are not changing their instruments; they are only changing their presentation. But the reality has changed.

So, in the United Nations, I presented my offer of peace by saying that the people who have lived outside of El Salvador, the groups of the left who are moving around the world, have forgotten that this has happened in the last years. And therefore, the only one who knows this is the commander of the guerrillas who lives in the mountains. And when they come down to the town, they expect to be received as heroes, but they are not, because the reality is different. Because the people have made a different decision, a decision that the representatives of the FMLN/ FDR outside of the country don't even know. But they don't even want to recognize it. But this is the reality.

So I said to them, "You are antihistorical because now what you have to do is to establish a new strategy concerning the new reality against your ideology." And I said to the right that they also are antihistorical, because they are not considering that the only possibilities to solving the problem is not to hold around their own concept, but to lead away a little, so that they could try to establish against the new reality, establish a new policy. This is the reason why I say I am offering to change the concept of hate for the concept of tolerance. This is the reason why I say, let's try to find a way in which we all understand each other, so that part of these people could move closer, so that we could form a very important shell to attract the reality closer to democracy. This is my presentation of the La Palma idea.

What did the left say? They started by saying that nothing has changed, absolutely nothing. And they say the reality, the reality that they see, is the same that it was in 1970. There are five points, they say. There are five points that they believe are the basic points in which the reality has not changed.

So they spent just about two and a half hours talking, trying to explain to us which we let them do why they believe this reality has not changed. They say the reforms and the economic situation are still under the control of the oligarchy, and therefore nothing has changed at this moment. The reforms, they say, have not changed anything. The economy will need 16 years to rebuild, and is absolutely destroyed. They say, concerning the political situation, "We don't believe in the elections, we don't accept the results of the elections, and we don't accept your presidency because we were not in the election process. And since we were not there, we don't believe in the pluralistic concept." And internationally they say, "You are absolutely dependent on the United States. You are not nationalistic; you are not free. And therefore, we believe that you are under the control of the policies of the United States, and the United States directs your doings, and you, Duarte, are only a puppet of the United States." Everything was based, then, on the imperialistic concept.

But finally they came up on the war analysis, and here they say that what happened is that there is an insurgent concept, which is the product of the strategy of not changing the realities. The only solution is to change it by the violent revolution; and therefore, the actions of the insurgency are absolutely moral. Against this insurgency, the army has presented a contra-insurgency. So the war is nothing else but an escalation between the insurgency and the contra-insurgency.

This is what they presented to us, their theory. "Therefore," they say, "your theory is not correct because nothing has changed. The absolute control of the society is under the hands of the right, the extreme right, and the reality is the same. So our concept, our ideology, and our strategy are correct."

Our answer to that? We say the reforms. Up to this moment, 30 percent of the land of the country is in the hands of the campesinos. Before, there were somewhere around 300 people who owned one-third of the most productive land of our country. Now, there is at least somewhere around 200,000 campesinos who own that land.

So, you are forgetting that now the banks, which were in the hands of the 14 families, are now in the hands of the government, and that the credits that before were given to friends around the 14 families, now are given to the campesinos and the cooperatives. Just to give you an example, before, somewhere around 300 million [col-onas] were given as credits, agricultural credits, to a group of somewhere around 500 people. Now this same amount, 300 million, is handled by 300 cooperatives. This is a change. There's no question about it, and everybody knows it. There's no question that at this moment the power of the economic forces has diminished, and that even though they're still strong, they have not the influences that they had before.

Politically, we say that there is a big change, a change in creating parties, a change in making elections. And they say that the elections were not valid because they did not participate. And I say, "You did participate, when you said that you were opposed to the elections, when you decided to get your guns out to stop the people that went in to vote, when you shot and the people went down to the floor because you didn't want them to vote; you were participating. You were participating in the negative system." But at the end, the people stood up, stayed in line, and went to vote. And there are 1,000 newspaper people as witnesses from all over the world. And there were 250 representatives of people from all the countries who went there to see this election. And there was not only one election; there were three elections in a row with the same concept and the same magnitude. So the legitimacy of the political result isn't debatable.

Now, they said, "Concerning your concept of pluralism, we believe that it cannot be pluralism without us." But they also say in order to have a real pluralism, it has to be a popular pluralism without the right. So I said, "So you want a pluralism with one side out, and replace the extreme right by the extreme left. That is not pluralism. Pluralism is to include all, and to give all the right to be there, the right and the left, and the center, and all the parties, and all the factors. So you are absolutely wrong on this concept.

"Internationally, there is a change. Before, everybody knew that the government was responsible for all the factors of violence in the country. And now, the whole world is conscious that the government is making its effort in order to change the reality. And, of course, there is no question that we are, at this moment, dependent on the help of the political and economic and military aid of the United States. There is no question about it; we know it. But that dependency is not only on one side. You, commanders, are also dependent on the aid of Russia, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

"So both sides are in the dependency condition. This is not an argument. And the third is the word which has something to do with dependency. If you insist that there is no change in the reality, and that by not changing the reality, the insurgency is valid, then the contra-insurgency is a very natural thing. But, the problem is that this insurgency has escalated into warfare. And this escalation made the contra-insurgency escalate." So this thing kept on going higher and higher.

So they said, "We believe that before, the army was a national army, and that it has passed from the national army to a contra-insurgency army. And now, it is moving into a puppet army, puppet of the United States. The United States tells them what to do and how to do things." This is their argument.

And I said, "But you're doing the same. Cuba tells you what to do. Cuba plans whatever you have to have, and the arms that you have to have. So you see, the war problem and the contra-insurgency and the insurgency, is nothing else but the result of your concept of violence, and your concept of understanding that there is no change of the reality."

So they say, "The solution is simple. Eliminate the contra-insurgency, and then immediately the insurgency will disappear."

I say, "Another mistake, a historical mistake. Because you started by saying that the insurgency was a product of the reality. And now you say that the insurgency is a product of the contra-insurgency. This is not true. So," I said to them, "you started the escalation of armed forces. In the beginning the army had arms which were bought somewhere around 1950, 1960. They had rifles (G-3 mark) and ammunition 20 years old. But you started obtaining new rifles and machine guns that made it obligatory for the army to have more arms to control this unbalanced situation.

"But then you came up and had more sophisticated arms. The Russians and Cubans gave you special grenades which were used with rifles. Then, they gave you special Chinese rockets. And finally, they have given you these recoilless guns that the army of El Salvador never had before." And today, we're suspicious that they have special rockets, earth to air, that they might use to destroy the air force.

So the escalation has come from the insurgency area, and this is the reason why we need the help to obtain the arms capable of controlling this. But, what is more important, neither the insurgency groups nor the government groups have the capacity to buy these arms and to buy those ammunitions. These are billions, millions of dollars. And neither the commanders and the guerrillas, and neither the army has the capacity, the economic capacity, to have it.

So this makes this war a definite dependency on the international foreign forces. And this takes the problem away from El Salvador. This is the reason why I presented a nationalistic proposition a proposition in which the problem has to be understood.

It has two dimensions: the national dimension has roots in this structure which I explained to you, and the international dimension of dependency, over which we do not have any control. So, actually, this is the reason why I have presented the guerrillas with this offer of peace.

This is the reason why I made this strategy of going all through the world talking to the Congress in the United States, talking to the government of the United States, talking to the countries in Europe, talking to the countries in Latin America, because I needed a shell to protect this reality against actions that might try to destroy internationally these efforts of reality. And if I can get them to understand that there are two extreme positions, polarized positions between the revolutionary violence and the actions of the death squads, and that I need protection against this, too. And for that I need an army to understand that it has to protect this reality against the death squads and against the violent actions of the extreme left.

This is the reason why I did not start a dialogue immediately after taking office. I had to work before in order to get this scheme, and to get the people back in the idea of trying to solve the problem in the democratic way. When I did that, and when I thought that I had everything ready, then I made the offer of peace at the United Nations. And the offer of peace then, is to try to get the new strategy of the left to move to an area closer to the democratic revolution so that the democratic revolution is strengthened with the concept of your so-called effort of the social justice of the people. And I also called on the right for a dialogue, to come up here and strengthen the concept of the private initiative and the economic, because between the three, we can form the forces capable of stabilizing the democratic process.

They tried then to say, "No, we don't believe in this. We believe that what you are trying to do is to take time." And here is the main thing they say: "We believe that there is only one way, a global solution." A global solution which means to obtain everything, to have negotiations in which they will be able to have their revolution, absolutely on their changing everything immediately. I say, "All right, now what you want is paradise, paradise today, and that is impossible in any society."

What we are presenting is a process. So the actual difference between the concept of the guerrillas, the ideological concept, is that they want a global solution which means, "Let's negotiate, let me, the violent revolution, participate in the government, have a control in the government, have a control in the army, destroy all the factors "the five factors that I mentioned"try to make the country free from the control of the United States. Let's have negotiations and relations with friends like Russia and all. By having that, we will have complete control on the conditions in order to have the changes of the structure."

This is the global solution they presented. And I said that is impossible. What we need is a process. And for that, we need to understand the changes of a structure. And they say, "We believe that there is no change of the structure. And because there is no change of the structure, we believe that your theory of the process is only how would you call that in English makeup. It is only a cosmetic solution, and therefore, there is no real proof." And I said, "The best proof is that you have entered into the country, have gone through the whole country, have gone to La Palma, and you are now sitting down here in front of the president. This is a reality, and this is a change. You could not have done this five months ago. You can only do it because there is a new concept, a new idea, and a new reality." This is the moment in which I said, "We cannot come out of this room without something to tell our people who are outside waiting. We cannot discourage our people. We have to give them faith that there is still an opportunity for peace."

So they accepted and we signed this communication that we presented to the world, in which it says that we will form a central committee to study all these offers and to try to look for a solution, and second, that we will try to humanize the concepts of war. This is what happened in La Palma.

All right. I think that with this information you have now clear my points of view concerning the two basic confrontations ideological confrontations in which there is not a polarization between the extreme right and the extreme left in our country, but three polarizations. There are three forces trying to change the reality: the extreme right, trying to maintain it; the extreme left, trying to make the violent revolution; and us, and when I mean us, I mean everybody who believes in democracy and is working in the democratic line. That includes other parties, too, who are working with different points of view on the democratic revolution.

When they ask me who's winning the war, I always said I know that who is losing the war are those who want violence, and who is winning the war are those who want democracy and who want peace. This, I think, gives you an idea.

And now, I will put myself into your hands for any questions concerning my country.

Thank you.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

Bottom Navigation Bar
Contact us at: (785) 532-5566 or 1-800-432-8222