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Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front
Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN)

In 1932 Farabundo Marti together with workers and peasants utilised the devastation caused by the volcanic eruption of Izalco to lead an uprising in an attempt to transform Salvadoran society. In this aborted uprising over 30,000 workers and peasants were massacred.

The Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) was formed with Cuban backing in 1980 when four left wing organizations and the Communist Party of El Salvador joined forces to overthrow violently the Salvadoran government. Although the war officially began in 1980s following the formation of the FMLN, some of the groups had been waging a low-level insurgency against the government throughout the 1970s. The FMLN was formed by a coalition of five groups: The Communist Party of El Salvador (PC), the Popular Liberation Forces (FPL), the Revolutionary Army of the People (ERP), the National Resistance (RN), and the Revolutionary Party of Central America Workers (PRTC). The PC, and to a lesser extent the FPL, were by far the most influential factions.

The Communist Party (PC) was formed in the 1930s, and although it initially sought to achieve its goals by political means, it did ultimately support military action during the civil war. The Popular Liberation Forces (FPL) was founded by Cayetanio Carpio, former Secretary General of the Communist Party in the 1970s. The FPL was essentially a splinter group of the PC that promoted armed struggle and rejected the PC,s attempts at non-violent change. They formally joined the FMLN as the Revolutionary Popular Block Party (BPR).

Joaquin Villalobos founded the Revolutionary Army of the People (ERP) in 1972. It focused on armed conflict and terrorism, and joined the FMLN as the Salvadoran Revolution Party (PRS). The ERP was a Marxist-Leninist oriented insurgent organization that established a reputation, since its formation in the early 1970s, as being one of the most violent terrorist groups operating within El Salvador. The organization's principal terrorist tactics included bombings (primarily of government and military installations but also foreign embassies and private businesses), assassinations, kidnapings, and the takeover of broadcast facilities.

The ERP's ultimate goal is the overthrow of the Salvadoran Government, dominated since 1931 by a succession of military regimes, but by 1983 represented by a joint civilian-military junta whose titular head was Christian Democrat Jose Napolean Duarte. The ERP remained dedicated to their original anarchic mission because they considered the government coalition to be equally as repressive as those preceeding it.

On July 18, 1983, between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Clelia Quinonez, the wife of the former Salvadoran Ambassador to the United States, was abducted in the vicinity of her Miami! Florida, residence. The goal, according to a group member, was a "war tax contribution" from the former Salvadoran Ambassador to the United States for the safe return of his wife. The term "war 'tax contribution" is a term often used in kidnaping cases in El Salvador where the motive is political, according to the former Ambassador. On July 14, 1983, eight individuals were arrested by the FBI in connection with this case.

The National Resistance (RN) emerged in 1975, after the ERP leadership allegedly assassinated a group within the ERP that supported socialist/communist indoctrination. Their armed wing during the civil war was called the Armed Forces of the National Resistance (RN-FARN). The Revolutionary Party of Central America Workers (PRTC) was an organization operating in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala that advocated for regional revolution instead of individual movements within the individual countries.

The five main guerrilla groups operating in El Salvador joined and formed the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional), which would later operate in close relationship with FDR 2 (Frente Democrático Revolucionario). last the political party that would lead all the military actions of the "Front" and would constitute the necessary political representation in the countries that would provide the arms and the funds for the fight. Two main reasons forced this coalition. In the first place, Fidel Castro conditioned the training and the delivery of arms to the different groups, unless they were united in a single front to assure the victory (military). Second, these groups suffered a series of internal "purges" produced by radicalism in the ideological bases of each of the guerrilla groups. These purges eliminated the leaders who were against the coalition.




FAPL Fuerzas Armadas Populares de Liberación FPL Fuerzas Populares de Liberación
FAL Fuerzas Armadas de la Liberación PCS Partido Comunista Salvadoreño
ERP Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo PRS Partido Revolucionario Salvadoreño
FARN Fuerzas Armadas de la Resistencia Nacional RN Resistencia Nacional
FARLP Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de la Liberación Popular PRTC Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Centroamericanos

Jimmy Carter approved a military aid package of 20 million dollars to fortify the "anti-subversive brigades". Ronald Reagan, a week after entering office, approved 60 million dollars in military aid and 54 military advisers. With these counter insurgency undertakings under the supervision and command of US military advisers the war acquired an ascending escalation. The Salvadorean Armed Forces began utilising counter insurgency tactics used in the Vietnam War El Salvador lived one of the bloodiest armed conflicts in Latin American history with a cost of more than 80,000 lives since 1979 to the end, with the cease fire in 1992.

During the 12 year Salvadoran civil war (1980-92), the FMLN attempted to overthrow the government utilizing a strategy that included armed struggle, terrorism, and socialist/communist political indoctrination. The liberation theology movement within the Catholic Church and labor unions largely supported these efforts. The group also received monetary support and arms from the Soviet Bloc and Cuba.

In January 1981, the FMLN launched a large military offensive, gaining territory in the northern and eastern departments of Chalatenango and Morazan, both of which continued to be FMLN strongholds. In October 1984, President Napoleon Duarte (1984-1989) began peace talks with the FMLN; however, the final peace accords would not be signed for another eight years. During this time thousands more died in the fighting and the FMLN committed several high profile killings, including US Embassy Marine Security Guards and other official Americans.

In May 1987, the FMLN issued a lis of conditions for peace including the establishmnt of a transitional government without election, the imposition of a socialist economy, and onging government support for FMLN guerrilla forces In 1988 and 1989, the FMLN went on a killing spree that included several democratically-elected mayors, Attorney General Roberto Garcia, Minister of the Presidency Jose Antonio Rodriguez Porth, Supreme Court President Francisco Guerrero, and other high profile victims. In November 1989 the FMLN launched the "Final Offensive" on San Salvador which resulted in more than 2,000 civilian deaths.

As a result of the dialogue initiated by President Duarte, the FDR (Revolutionary Democratic Front), separated from the FMLN and reintegrated into the social and political life of the country, with full guarantees of amnesty by the Government. FDR members declared their separation from the FMLN.

The group reached a peace agreement with the Government of El Salvador on 31 December 1991. The FMLN laid down its arms and became an official political party in December 1991, one month before the FMLN and the Salvadoran government signed the Peace Accords ending the 12-year conflict. The Peace Accords did not mention amnesty for crimes committed during the conflict, but the 1993 Amnesty Law was an essential part of their success.

One important aspect of the political agreements signed at Chapultepec in 1992 was the political participation of the FMLN. To ensure this outcome, a number of legislative and other measures were adopted to ensure the full exercise of civil and political rights by the ex-combatants of the FMLN in order to bring them into the civil, political, and institutional life of the country under full legal guarantees.

In order to achieve this, it was agreed, among others, to legalize the FMLN as a political party by means of a legislative decree; to respect the right and willingness of the FMLN to participate fully in politics without any restrictions beyond those contained in the new institutional and judicial framework set down by the Peace Accord; to grant freedom to all those then detained for political reasons; to set down guarantees and assurances for the return of individuals in exile, of injured combatants and all others who were abroad as a consequence of the war; to authorize licenses for the operation of media companies belonging to the FMLN; to guarantee the FMLN the freedom of action required for its normal development once it had become a political party; and to adopt special security measures that were required for the protection of the FMLN leadership, for which the government would provide the necessary facilities, all of this under the verification of ONUSAL.

Within this context, the Legislative Assembly approved on 23 January 1992 a National Reconciliation Law that conceded wide-ranging amnesties for political and common transgressions of the law. A number of top-level members of the FMLN and other leaders of the organization entered the country legally, and their security and freedom of movement was guaranteed by the government. On 14 December 1992, the FMLN became a political party after being formally recognized as such.

The FMLN senior leadership had strong links to Hugo Chavez and the rest of the Bolivarian bloc, and appeared not to have significantly deviated from the Marxist world-view that motivated their guerrilla insurgency in the 1980s. Despite legal recognition as a party, the coalition groups that made up the FMLN retained their identities and organizational structure. However, this arrangement quickly proved troublesome and the five groups formally dissolved in 1995 to create a unified party. Despite the unification, strong loyalties and divisions still existed, and many members continued to identify themselves with their original associations. Newer FMLN members, particularly those who joined the party after the turn of the century, were far less likely to identify themselves with the PC, FPL, or other factions that existed during the war.

Further tensions emerged in 1999 when the FMLN nominated former guerrilla commander Facundo Guardado as its presidential candidate. This caused a deep division within the party and two organized factions emerged, the "Renovadores", led by supporters of Guardado, and the Revolutionary Socialist Current (CRS), led by hardliners Shafik Handal and Salvador Sanchez Ceren. Guardado, although a popular former guerrilla commander, was considered too moderate by hardliners within the party, particularly the CRS. After losing the election and engaging in several public spats with other FMLN members, Guardado lost control of the party at the next national council (one of the FMLN's principle internal governance bodies) when the majority of the posts went to Handal and Sanchez Ceren's bloc.

In the March 2000 elections, the FMLN won 31 of 84 Legislative Assembly seats and won 78 of 262 municipalities. In the 2003 legislative elections, the FMLN retained power in the legislative assembly when it won 31 seats and 34 percent of the votes. ARENA secured second place with 27 seats and 32 percent of the votes. Despite its second place position in the 2000 and 2003 legislative elections, ARENA still retained control by means of coalitions with the PCN and the PDC, other rightwing parties. Rivalry between the FMLN factions resulted in defections, which prevented the party from being able to use the power of veto on government initiatives that require a twothirds’ majority.8 In 2005, dissident FMLN members formed the Revolutionary Democratic Front (Frente Democratico Revolucionario, FDR) and took a number of seats from the FMLN. In the March 2006 legislative elections, the FMLN again won a majority of the votes. In March 2006, the FMLN won 32 of 84 seats (ARENA won 34 seats) at the Legislative Assembly. In 1997, the FMLN formed a coalition with the Democratic Change Party (CD) and the Unity Movement Party (MU) to win the mayorship of San Salvador, the most populated municipality in the country. The FMLN's strategy focused on populous urban areas, in addition to retaining a few rural strongholds from the war years.

When the FDR’s leader, Schafik Jorge Handal, died in January 2006, Salvador Sanchez Ceren was appointed as head of the FMLN legislative bloc. Although many in the FMLN continued to oppose any move to the center and cling to pre- and civil war rhetoric and ideology, by 2008 the party leadership had apparently taken the decision that in order to win, some changes, particularly the nomination of a candidate without war baggage, were necessary.

In November 2007, the FMLN nominated Mauricio Funes, a popular television personality, as its presidential candidate and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a long-time hardliner from the FPL, as the vice presidential candidate. Funes, relationship with the FMLN is, however, still uncertain and likely evolving. Although the FMLN's Political Committee's support for Funes stems from an obvious desire to win the upcoming elections, potential rifts in the relationship have appeared. The FMLN,s choice of Funes, a former television personality, as their candidate was an acknowledgment that the FMLN needed a new face, and not a longtime FMLN hardliner, in order to mount a serious run at the presidency.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a top leader of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebel army during El Salvador's civil war was vice president in the government, and his winning 2014 campaign for the top slot was helped by its popular welfare policies, including pensions and free school supplies.

During the Civil War, most insurgent activity revolved around the communist FMLN organization. Now a legitimate political party, the FMLN is no longer considered insurgent. However, during the transition to peace in 1992, not all members of the FMLN saw truce as the road to their envisioned victory. As a result, splinter groups of ex-combatants began to operate independently. These groups are criminal in nature, often using ambush-style guerrilla tactics to make a living. These tactics include armed theft, extortion, and weapons or narcotics trafficking. Today, these criminal groups operate in remote areas of the countryside. Salvadoran Revolutionary Front (FRS) is comprised of both former members of the FMLN and exmembers of the ESAF. The FRS targets the National Civil Police (PNC) and former revolutionaries, and also has demonstrated the capability to conduct assassinations and assaults. The FRS may have been responsible for firing automatic weapons into a Salvadoran military base camp near Montecillo, San Miguel Department, where U.S. troops were stationed in March 1995. U.S. soldiers did not return fire, nor did the incident cause any injuries.

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Page last modified: 24-09-2017 18:52:28 ZULU