'Elections' Won't Conceal the Truth

President Reagan has condemned and sanctioned the Polish government for having declared the state of siege, imprisoned the most important leaders of Solidarity and dissolved labor strikes. At the same time, he has launched a campaign whose slogan is "Let Poland Be Poland."

Closer to the United States, Reagan is not letting El Salvador be El Salvador. The military junta he is militarily sustaining there has kept the country under state of siege since March 6, 1980, has imprisoned and assassinated trade union leaders, and is responsible for the most serious human rights violations.

Reagan and his secretary of state are trying to make the U.S. public believe that the dilemma is either supporting the Salvadoran junta or letting El Salvador fall into Soviet hands. In this perspective, it does not matter how undesirable it is to provide military aid to a brutal and repressive regime such as the junta of El Salvador; this is thought to be a lesser evil than an FMLN-FDR victory.

As presidents Johnson and Nixon did during the Vietnam years, Reagan is now attempting to conceal the repressive character of the Salvadoran junta by means of "elections" in order to be able to affirm that he supports a "democratically elected" regime. However, a brief examination of the conditions under which this electoral process is taking place allows one to discover its true nature.

In El Salvador, there is a state of siege, an internal war is widespread, the security forces assassinate tens of civilians each day, the press is censored and the leaders of the democratic and revolutionary opposition have been threatened to be wiped out by the armed forces upon publishing a "black list" in Salvadoran newspapers. Given these conditions, Reagan should ask himself if he would have participated in the 1980 elections if conditions in the United States had been like El Salvador's.

As happened in the Vietnamese elections, the Salvadoran political parties that lend themselves to the junta's electoral game have denounced elections. On Dec. 17, 1981, they sent an open letter to the OAS declaring that "the Christian Democrats are mainly responsible for blocking the electoral process" and that "the government of El Salvador has completely lost the confidence of the political parties of the Republic."

It is precisely for this reason that the FMLN- FDR has stated on several occasions that elections are a valid and necessary instrument of democracy whenever the conditions exist to allow the people to be represented in the candidates and freely choose one of them. Now, in El Salvador, as it was in Vietnam, conditions do not exist.

For the American people, who are looking at Reagan's policy toward El Salvador with increasing opposition, as well as for the Salvadoran people who suffer the painful effects of this policy, there is an alternative: a negotiated political settlement to the conflict.

In an open letter recently sent to Reagan by the five commanders of the FMLN, they declare that "Our proposal involves a comprehensive negotiation and our disposition to undertake them at any time, without preconditions placed on any of the parties in the conflict. It also involves setting up an agenda for discussions to be agreed upon by both sides, the participation of government representatives from other countries as witnesses and providing the Salvadoran people with the necessary information regarding the process of political settlement. This is our contribution to peace in the region."

This could occur if the main forces in the Salvadoran conflict decided to begin a process of negotiations striving for an effective solution. The FMLN- FDR has already expressed its disposition to undertake this process without conditions. The U.S. Congress favors negotiations. It is necessary, however, that Reagan stop opposing the development of this process, and it is also necessary that the military/Christian Democratic junta fulfill its public commitment, made on Jan. 9, 1980, to "begin a constructive dialogue with all popular organizations in order to achieve their participation in the process of structural change" and "to also establish a democratic coexistence with those organizations in which the respect of the law and human rights should be the mutual norm of behavior."