The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 35 1992 Demobilizing Insurgents in El Salvador When mid-level insurgent commanders began resisting the final stages of the negotiated demobilization of fighters in El Salvador, Chargé d’Affaires Peter Romero took to the hills to speak to them himself. The next year, Romero was appointed U.S. ambassador to Ecuador and later the department’s first Hispanic assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs. It was the last week before the guerrillas had to demobilize completely; they demobilized in stages, and of course they kept their best guns and their best fighters for the last iteration of demobilization. We were called by a contact who had been the deputy head of one of the largest guerrilla-fighting factions. The FMLN was the umbrella group, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, and then you had five factions of fighters underneath that umbrella. And the largest one was a group called the ERP, the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, and these were some hardfighting guys, and they were supposed to have demobilized their last units, which were their crack units. … [U.N. Secretary General] Boutros Ghali, because this was a U.N.-sponsored event, the critical stage of the peace process … was coming down to bless the demobilization of the guerrillas and the demobilization of the quick reaction battalions in the army. I talked to my subordinate who had close contacts with the deputy of this particular ERP faction, because he had warned that the mid-level commanders weren’t demobilizing, they didn’t see anything in it for them, they expected to have benefits. ... This was the last faction. Boutros Ghali is expected in literally a matter of hours. [I was told] that the mid-level commanders … were all meeting on the slopes of the San Salvador volcano at a Catholic orphanage. “Find out where it is,” [I told my subordinate] … “because we’re going.”