January 16, 2002

10 years of peace in El Salvador

EL PAISNAL, El Salvador (AP) --Maximiliano Navarro lost both of his arms and
his right eye fighting for the leftists against the army during Salvador's 12-year civil
war. Now, a decade after the bloody conflict ended, he is working hard to find new
opportunities as a businessman.

Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords that
ended the war between a right-wing dictatorship and guerrillas of the leftist
Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.

As they celebrated their lasting peace, Salvadorans reflected on the changes that
have come to their country in the wake of the prolonged war.

Like most Salvadorans, Navarro, 42, believes the accords have brought a measure of
peace, stability and prosperity to his country.

"They were worth it, because the bloodshed has stopped," said Navarro, a director
of a small loan cooperative. "Now we're fighting for opportunities to grow and

A private university poll released Monday revealed that eight of 10 Salvadorans
considered the accords a positive achievement.

President Francisco Flores said the 10 years since the peace accords were signed
"mark one of the most successful periods that this country has ever had."

Flores and members of his cabinet were to attend a commemorative ceremony
Wednesday to mark the accords in Perquin, a mountain hamlet and former guerrilla
bastion more than 125 miles northeast of San Salvador.

Then-Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani and rebel representatives signed the
original accords on January 16, 1992, in Mexico City under the supervision of the
United Nations.

For some, like ex-guerrilla commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren, now leader of the
rebel's political party, the peace accords promised much more than they have

"It's evident that yes, the country has changed, it's a different country," Sanchez
said. "For us the most important result was demilitarization, that a military
dictatorship no longer exists.

"But you have to look at the accords within today's reality: Social conflicts continue,
the level of poverty has increased ... and there are still high levels of impunity."

Bruno Moro, director of the local U.N. development office here, said the accords
were not perfect, but "they have in large part met their fundamental objectives."

Navarro, who lost his two arms and right eye after a mine explosion in February
1986, believes the peace accords have brought both economic and social stability to
the country.

That includes his home of El Paisnal, a small village on the northern outskirts of San
Salvador that was one of the battle sites of the war.

Loan cooperatives designed to help ex-combatants get back on their feet began
popping up after the war, and "little by little we began to learn how they worked,"
Navarro said.

Since Navarro's cooperative began in 1996, it has lent money to more than 100
ex-guerrilla and army fighters both.

"We're all making an effort to not go bankrupt, to develop the business," he said.

On the other hand, he can't ignore the dozens of former fighting companions who
have not had as much luck as he.

"There are people abandoned, with no house, no job, no land to work," he said. "The
accords have been important, but it also is important to give this chance to grow to
everyone -- this also is a part of peace."

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.