Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas announced today that the next round of peace talks between government and guerrilla representatives would take place Friday at a site in El Salvador to be announced later.
The archbishop, in his regular Sunday homily at San Salvador's National Cathedral, said the date and place for the meeting had been agreed upon by the government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte and rebel leaders.
Rivera y Damas, who is the mediator in the dialogue between the government and the rebels that began Oct. 15 in the small northern town of La Palma, said the site for the talks was not being revealed yet for "security reasons."
Both government and rebel representatives have indicated in recent weeks their concern about security at the next meeting, now that extremist opponents of the talks have had a month and a half to organize opposition and, possibly, to plan means of sabotaging them.
Suggested sites for the next round of talks have ranged from the El Salvador International Airport at Comalapa, south of the capital, to hamlets in northern Morazan province, which has long been a bastion of the guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
Rivera y Damas, however, confirmed earlier in the week that San Salvador had been ruled out as a site. The Marti Front, and leaders of its political wing, the Democratic Revolutionary Front, had suggested San Salvador as a site for the talks in a message to Duarte, but government officials have made it clear that they consider San Salvador too difficult a place to ensure security for the talks. The possibility of mass political demonstrations in the streets was another reason to exclude the capital as a site.
The talks Friday are expected to be a low-key affair, unlike the session in La Palma, where Duarte led a high-level government delegation to meet a rebel negotiating team headed by Guillermo Ungo, the Democratic Revolutionary Front leader.
Duarte said in a press conference last week that this time he would not attend the talks because they would be procedural and not substantive. Given Duarte's decision, it is expected that the rebels, too, will send a lower level delegation to the talks this time. According to government officials close to the planning of the talks, the next round of discussions will center on settling protocol and procedures for future talks and possibly writing an agenda for further meetings.
Duarte, in a speech to members of Christian Democratic Party yesterday, said his negotiating team would be led by Minister to the Presidency Julio Adolfo Rey Prendes. He will be accompanied by Col. Carlos Lopez Nuila, the vice minister of defense for security affairs, who is the Salvadoran military's representative to the talks, as well as Minister of Coordination Fidel Chavez Mena and First Vice President Abraham Rodriguez.
Guerrilla spokesmen indicated during the weekend that they probably would announce the names of their delegation on Monday.