War on a Bus ii(PREVIOUSLY: In San Salvador, prior to my taking a “chicken bus” to join government troops in the mountains fighting communist guerrillas, I met FMLN communist Autberto who took me out on a tour of the city to “show you why I am a communist.”)

We walked the slums—los barrios de miseria—the neighborhoods of misery. Women, old men and children lived in shacks of tin and cardboard. They slept on the sidewalks, all curled up with each other, and a dirty claw would reach out to beg money.

“They have eyes and they have ears,” said Autberto. “They know there is a better way of life. They don’t ask for charity. They ask only for what Norte Americanos take for granted—opportunity.

What made Autberto think the communists offered anything better? In curing measles, Nicaragua to the south had contacted the plague. Under communism, it was rapidly becoming the most miserable and repressive nation in all of the Americas.

“Under communism, we will all have land and jobs and share equally,” Autberto decreed. “They have promised us.”

“They?” I asked.

“The communistas, of course.”

“And where are they from? Cuba? Russia? What makes you think they will do for you what they have not done for their own?”

He did not want to talk about it anymore.

Lt. Col. Ricardo Cienfuegos, my friend and head of the armed services press corps, who within two weeks would become the highest-ranking official assassinated in the civil war, advised me to go to Chalatenango Province, to a place called El Paraiso, if I wished to see how the government was winning the war against the guerrillas.

Paraiso?”

He laughed. “Yes, to Paradise. That is where the war is now.”

I was relieved to leave San Salvador, even if the turkey in the aisle of the bus did smell. The military in the capital was oppressive. Guardia Nacional manned sandbagged emplacements on street corners. Everyone, it seemed, walked around carrying automatic weapons. Two uniformed men with rifles guarded the golden arches of McDonald’s.

Fourth Brigade headquarters at El Paraiso was an isolated outpost surrounded by concertina wire and 105mm gun emplacements.

A patrol was getting ready to go out when I arrived. A youth pounded on an M-79 grenade launcher to correct a malfunction. The weapon went off with a pneumatic sound. The grenade hissed between two patrol members, arced over a 105 gun crew, and exploded in a field. Everyone looked sheepish.

Welcome to Paradise.

(TO BE CONCLUDED IN PART III)

Charles W. Sasser, former Green Beret soldier and combat correspondent, is author of over 60 books and thousands of magazine articles. If you want to understand the socialist “revolution” that is occurring in the U.S. now, obtain his book CRUSHING THE COLLECTIVE.