March 15, 2003

Former Salvadoran guerrilla poster girl finds a different role

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) --Twenty-three years ago she was a poster girl for
the leftist guerrillas fighting a U.S.-backed government -- a young woman, her right arm
raised, wielding a rifle -- in an inspiring picture that became widely known in El
Salvador and abroad.

Ana Guadalupe Martinez eventually became a guerrilla commander and
member of the central command of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation
Front (FMLN), the group that forced the government into peace talks and a
1992 peace treaty after 12 years of war and more than 50,000 deaths.

"For us it was a great victory," Martinez told The Associated Press in an
interview recalling the large popular support the young guerrillas had in those
days. "We saw a different country, without an authoritarian government and
with pluralistic participation."

But in 1994, disappointed with the radical groups in the FMLN, especially the
Communist Party, Martinez and other leaders left it.

"Some of us thought that the FMLN, with the popular support it had, could be
a factor for change. We wanted to revise the role of the Front in a democratic
society, to change within the system and strengthen the institutions," she said.

But she says the Communists' "logical distrust of new ideas" have kept the
Front tied to old ideological schemes.

Three months ago, Martinez joined the Christian Democratic Party to campaign
for its candidates in Sunday's congressional and mayoral election.

The Front remains an important party and is in a tight race with the ruling
Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), a rightist organization, for control of
the national congress. The two have 55 of 84 seats and the FMLN holds
several of the most important mayorships, including the capital, San Salvador.

Martinez says neither ARENA nor the FMLN have come up with solutions to
the national problems and blames them for the expected low voter turnout
Sunday. According to recent polls less than 40 per cent of the voters will

She sees an opportunity for the Christian Democrats to start a come back in
this election.

The Christian Democrats were in power from 1984 to 1989 when President
Jose Napoleon Duarte tried several economic and social reforms that were
opposed by conservative economic groups. The PDC lost in 1989 to ARENA.

"The PDC governed under very difficult conditions," she said. "It had a hard
time with the right, because it took up some leftist banners. But it still has a
national structure. We think we can reorganize the party and present options
with clear social programs."

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.