The road map says there is a village called Tehuiste Arriba, population 250, in the hills about 40 miles east of here.
The map is wrong -- Tehuiste Arriba does not exist. Last summer, government troops swept through and burned down or simply pushed over nearly all of the village's 30 or 40 stick and mud huts. Most of the residents fled before the troops arrived.
"They were all guerrillas up there," a local military commander explained. In an apparent government effort to prevent the guerrillas from getting supplies, shelter and recruits from the villagers, Tehuiste Arriba, like a number of other towns and villages in guerrilla-controlled areas, was razed. According to peasants still in the area, most of the residents have joined either the guerrillas higher up in the mountains or the swelling refugee population in El Salvador's larger cities and government-controlled areas.
Less than two miles up the road from Tehuiste Arriba is a large coffee plantation called San Simon, once privately owned and now a government land-reform cooperative. It is one of 283 of El Salvador's largest farms that have been expropriated by the government and turned over to peasants in hopes that a redistribution of land in the agriculture-based country will make them deaf to leftist appeals.
Tehuiste Arriba and San Simon are two aspects of the ruling civilian-military junta's joint, and sometimes conflicting, goals -- winning the support of the peasants who make up 60 percent of El Salvador's population while physically crushing the leftist guerrillas.
The land reform also is designed to prove to domestic and foreign critics of this government that, while conservative, it is committed to improving the lives of the majority. The program has received heavy financial, technological and moral backing from the U.Sl government's Agency for International Development, and the AFL-CIO's American Institute for Free Labor Development.
As planned, the reform would be the most extensive undertaken in Central America, affecting nearly two-thirds of the rural poor, far more sweeping, for example, than the program outlined by the leftist Sandinista government in nearby Nicaragua.
But there are increasing indications that the politically explosive program, one year after it was launched in the midst of brutal political violence, is faltering, plagued by the violence, by administrative delays and by an increasing scarcity of agricultural credit in a country suffering from a flight of private capital that officials estimate at more than $1 billion in the last year.
The program was to take place in three phases. The first, already accomplished, was the takeover by the government of all farms larger than 1,235 acres. Those have been turned into peasant-run cooperatives.
Although original estimates indicated that about 315 farms would be affected, the government says there are 283 farms in the program. Critics such as Oxfam America, a private relief agency, say many farms owned by influential military and political leaders have been overlooked or returned to the owners.
One land-reform official conceded that might be true but said few large farms are in that category. Accepting the government's lower figure, the first phase affects about 17 percent of the country's farmland and more than 60,000 families.
The second phase would take over and distribute all farms larger than 247 acres. The third and perhaps most controversial phase would take control of all lands not worked by their owners and give sharecroppers and tenants the titles to those properties, up to 17 acres per family.
Government officials have announced that the second phase, which would affect the heart of the country's vital coffee and cotton exports, has been indefinitely postponed. One Western diplomat put it more bluntly. "Phase two is dead," he said, for economic as well as political reasons.
The faltering economy simply cannot sustain the drop in agricultural production that would result from changing the production process. Politically, this diplomatic analyst and others said, the first phase was difficult enough, even though it affected fewer than 300 landowners, members of an oligarchy that over the years had been losing political power to the armed forces.
In contrast, phase two would take land away from about 1,800 current owners, including many government and military officials.
Phase three, which would affect the greatest number of peasants, is also stumbling. A year ago, the government announced Decree 207, the "land-to-the-tiller" law, under which former tenants on small subsistence plots would own the lands they worked. About 150,000 families were to benefit.
But a year later, fewer than 1,000 titles have been handed out -- and only "provisional" titles at that -- while the government attempts to set up the administrative machinery for the program and looks for money to pay off the current owners.
Government officials and Western analysts privately doubt that many more titles will be issued, certainly nothing close to 150,000. Publicly, government officials concede that the third phase may take years to carry out.
Phase three also carries the greatest potential for violence by current landowners trying to drive the peasant renters from their land before the new owners could prove they had a right to it. The parcels to be divided belong to thousands of relatively small landowners, low-level military and political officials and still more members of the small urban and rural middle class.
In a fiery televised address just before he and two AFL-CIO advisers were gunned down in a hotel restaurant in January, Rodolfo Viera, head of the land-reform institute, decried the number of peasants killed "with the 207 decree in their hands."
Despite the partial paralysis, U.S. officials proclaim land reform a success, pointing out that the large farms are no longer in the hands of the oligarchy and that production is adequate. While estimates are that production is down 15 to 20 percent or more on many of the farms, supporters of the program say that is to be expected in the chaotic early stages of any major land reform.
Foreign analysts also say the program has demonstrated, to the surprise of both internaitonal observers and skeptical moderates within the country that the government was serious about reform.
The Rev. Roberto Torruellas, and influential priest who is a top assistant to Acting San Salvador Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas, pointed to the land-reform program as one of the major reasons he and other members of the church -- led by the liberal archbishop Oscar Romero until his assissination a year ago -- now support the junta.
"At a minimum, the government has affected the power of the landed oligarchy," Torruellas said in an interview.
But discussions last week with dozens of those who are to be the most affected, the peasants themselves, indicate that the junta's experiment so far has provided little economic benefit to them and few if any converts in the battle to win political support.
In San Simon, for example, co-op leaders point out that their credit for the planting season has been stalled.
"No one has been paid for a month," said co-op treasurer Manuel de Jesus Delgado. "If the people are not paid soon, they will abandon the work and try to find work somewhere else."
One land-reform official privately doubted that credit for San Simon would be coming any time soon.
"The government thinks that all the people in that area support the guerrillas, so it's not likely to be quick about helping them with credits."
San Simon operated heavily in the red last year, barely making two-thirds of what it needs to pay off last year's production loan, aside from what the co-op is supposed to pay the government to satisfy its compensation to the former landowner. Under the land-reform program, all cooperatives are given a 30-year "mortgage" at 13 percent interest.
And a new expense has come with the reform. Peasant leaders and AFL-CIO reports says that many cooperatives are now forced to pay a protection tax to the armed local government militia forces. San Simon, for example, now pays nearly $1,000 a month for protection, according to the AFL-CIO. El Penon, a project near the coast and not far from the Guatemalan border, where eight leaders were taken out one evening and executed by government security forces, now pays about $180 a month.
Peasants interviewed complained that the Army came in and told them that the land was theirs; then the Army killed several of their leaders. They later learned that they would not own the land until they had paid off the 30-year mortgage.
A co-op member in La Cabana, about 25 miles north of the capital, said there was a widespread feeling there that little has improved and that, if anything, the situation is worse than before.
"We are now working more and not getting any more for it," the member said.
San Simon is also an example of the government's difficulty in controlling the farms it is supposed to be overseeing. The government social worker, who is supposed to train the peasants to run a cooperative, and the technical adviser have stopped visiting the co-op because they have received death threats from right-wing extremists.
More than 50 government land-reform and other officials, along with more than 500 peasant leaders, have been killed since the program started last year.
Of the 283 farms the government says are part of the first phase of the program, officials concede that at least 23 are not under government control, because they have been taken over either by right-wing extremists or leftist guerrillas.
Still, despite the general violence and lack of credit, there are some successes. Santa Clara, a sprawling, 10,000-acre cattle, cotton and corn farm not far from San Simon, presents a striking example of a relatively successful project.
Untouched by the political violence, paying no protection taxes, Santa Clara's operation is running well in the black. But it will still be hard-pressed to pay the government mortgage of about $400,000 a year. There will be no profits to divide among the 360 members for quite some time, in part because of the hefty mortgage payments and in part because considerable investment needs to be made in the farming operation.
"Not that much is different from when the boss ran this place," one co-op leader said, "but there is less pressure and arbitrariness on the part of the administrators," many of whom have stayed on as members to run the farm.
The administrators, one member said, know they can be replaced if the membership wishes. One government technician pointed out that Santa Clara was successful economically in large part because the old administrators had stayed on. But, he added, that was precisely why many of the peasants, especially those not in leadership positions, had trouble seeing what benefits there were in all of this land reform hoopla.
More than anything, it is still the violence that is undermining any government effort to win political support through the land-reform program.
More than 25 residents in La Cabana have been killed in the last year. One co-op member was taken from his home and shot just a few weeks ago.
When asked who was responsible for the murders, the board members said it was the left, but some members corrected that to say that some of the killing may have been done by government security forces.
In a pattern repeated again and again, a resident who was not on the board of directors later approached a group of visitors as they were leaving and whispered that he and everyone else knew that the killings were almost all the work of government security forces.
May U.S. officials and AFL-CIO advisers here agree that government forces are responsible for the vast majority of the killings, despite Washington's insistence that it is the guerrillas who should be blamed.
Junta President Jose Napoleon Duarte has pledged to bring the violence by government troops under control and to continue the reforms, and foreign analysts here say there are indications that the level of such violence has declined in recent weeks.
But those same analysts are not confident that Duarte can keep the reforms going, nor, even if he does, that the massive land-reform will mean much for the eventual outcome of the war.
As Oxfam America pointed out in a recent highly critical report, most of the landless peasants will not benefit from the program, especially if the second and third phases are not carried out.
Program backers such as University of Washington law professor Ray Prosterman, who organized a similar program in the 1960s in Vietnam, point out that it is impossible for all peasants to benefit in a largely rural country of 5 million people squeezed into an area the size of Massachusetts.
But it is that lack of land to fulfill the peasants' desires that leads some foreign analysts to doubt that the land-reform program, even if it were to be carried out to the full extent, would yield the political benefits that the junta will need to win over the peasants.