Commander Francisco Jovel (nom de guerre Roberto
Roca) is one of five members of the FMLN General Com-
mand. He was interviewed in April.
Many people were expecting big, decisive actions by the
FMLN during the elections. What was the impact of your
military activity in the electoral period?
We gave concrete instructions to our combatants: "Don't
get confused. The nineteenth [March 19] is not a matter of
patria o muerte, of victory or death. What we are going to
do is make a big show of force." For example, we knew that
the government army's defensive scheme for the capital
was to deploy elite battalions along the entire northern
periphery, and security forces and part of the First Brigade
in the city's interior. Their plan was to allow us to penetrate
deep in order to encircle us and seek a definitive battle. Of
course we did not fall into their trap. In addition to their
operational design, which was evident, our intelligence
gave us details of their plans. What we did was modulate our
combat and our forces. We responded with a scheme of
simultaneity, maximizing operations of significance in the
countryside. We hit 54 important points, plus all the work
that resulted in the paralysis of the country, plus all the
sabotage that was done to the electrical system.
The enemy really expected that we would make March
19 a decisive day. They prepared a totally defensive scheme.
They had more than 3,000 troops in the capital alone.
Between army soldiers, security forces, and spies, I would
estimate they had 5,000 people on alert in San Salvador. But
in spite of their defensive cordon, we hit them, we pene-
trated, and we withdrew militarily intact.
But the population was expecting more urban action. Did the
people feel a bit disappointed? We think the Salvadoran people have learned how we
force the army to fall in their own traps. Perhaps at the time
the masses thought the nineteenth might be decisive, but on
making the smallest reflection they will see that what the
guerrilla did was correct: hit in many places, show our
military potential, wear down the army enormously, force
them to go on maximum alert, force them to reveal their
defensive scheme while the guerrillas show their offensive
scheme, maintain our forces intact, force the government
army to pay the costs. Undoubtedly this caused the army
great concern. If the guerrillas could hit 54 places when they
knew we were waiting for them and we were on maximum
alert, what will happen when we are not waiting for them?
There have been advances on all these fronts. The most
dramatic, according to both FMLN and military sources,
have occurred at the most clandestine level, which the
Armed Forces now recognize as their principal area of
concern. A formal announcement of sorts of this develop-
ment was the daylight attack on the National Guard head-
quarters last November 1, which was timed to coincide
As of March 19 we have condemned the army to the
following: They [must remain] on the defensive and cannot
mount any real offensive effort. This opens many possibili-
ties for us. On the nineteenth we did not use all our forces---but
we will. We are not dealing with a prolonged popular war; we
have entered a phase of strategic offensive. The months from
March 19 to the end of this year are going to be months of
increasing military activity.
Politically, what is your assessment of the possibilities of the
There are different options. One is that the correlation of
forces leads to a negotiated solution of a strategic character,
to install a truly democratic system. The second option is a
popular victory--we consider that in this country it can't be
a military victory in the classic sense, but a drastic change
in the correlation of forces accompanied by a process of
civic rebellion. Rebellion of all kinds, from the most pacific
to the most radical, that will also bring democracy.
We in the FMLN are not talking about installing a
socialist regime should there be a popular victory. This is
the product of our analysis of national and international
reality. Even when this kind of victory is achieved through
a process we call insurrectional--a combination of military
offensive combined with civic rebellion, with its own
particularly Salvadoran characteristics---even then, we sim-
ply propose the establishment of an authentically demo-
This has to do with many facts: first of all, the level of
development-both political and economic-in our coun-
try. The geopolitical climate in which our process is taking
place. The Latin American search for a genuinely Latin
American form of revolution. The fact that capitalism has
proven incapable of finding solutions to the principal prob-
lems of the masses, even in its most democratic forms. But
also, [the fact that] socialism is in a process of turns, of
changes, of internal restructuring.
This is developing differently in each socialist country,
using names and terms appropriate to each, from Soviet
perestroika to what you could call rectification in Cuba.
There is a search for change and modification in the
orthodox notion of what is meant by socialism. This ortho-
doxy, which some of us have called dogmatism, is in
revision, in crisis, and trying to give birth to new forms. It's
within this framework that the concrete possibilities of our
Salvadoran revolution are being written.
This, for us, is strategic thinking. And I believe that step
by step forces in El Salvador, in Latin America, even in the
United States, will come to understand that the FMLN has
undertaken a major reformulation of its strategic options.
Commander Francisco Jovel (nom de guerre Roberto