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Tue Dec 8, 2020, 05:09 AM

What a 40-year-old massacre says about El Salvador today

Elizabeth Hawkins
December 7, 2020

SAN SALVADOR — This country’s brutal civil war ended nearly thirty years ago, but it many ways, it still feels like a battleground here. Soldiers in combat gear patrol the streets alongside heavily armed police; razor wire runs atop many buildings. Those who can afford to live in gated communities with private security, while guards watch the entrance of many businesses. These days, however, they spend much of their time taking customers’ temperatures and directing them to hand sanitizer.

In February, soldiers occupied parliament at the direction of President Nayib Bukele in an attempt to pressure lawmakers into approving an increase in military funding. Weeks later, Bukele ordered one of the world’s longest and most restrictive pandemic lockdowns. Military checkpoints were set up around the country, and people deemed to be violating quarantine were arrested. When the legislature and courts attempted to block the moves, Bukele accused them of “being on the side of the disease,” refusing to follow court orders.

Human rights defenders who challenged the military’s actions were threatened, as were journalists who published investigative reports critical of the president and his cabinet.

Bukele was elected in June 2019, but the tensions are decades old. Scholars generally agree about the basic facts of El Salvador’s civil war, which lasted from 1980 until 1992: A small but powerful economic elite, supported by the military, resisted demands for reform and became increasingly repressive, prompting the left-wing opposition to organize and take up arms. As part of its Cold War “containment” policy, the United States provided funding and military support to El Salvador’s right-wing government.

Although both sides committed war crimes, the United Nations later found that US-backed Salvadoran government troops and their allies were behind most of them. Perhaps the worst atrocity—the massacre of around 1,000 innocent villagers in the hamlet of El Mozote on December 11, 1981—still looms large over society in El Salvador today, pushing the country toward a constitutional crisis and raising crucial questions about justice, memory and the country’s fragile institutions.


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Reply What a 40-year-old massacre says about El Salvador today (Original post)
Judi Lynn Dec 2020 OP
abqtommy Dec 2020 #1
Judi Lynn Dec 2020 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Dec 8, 2020, 07:01 AM

1. Hmmm... now who was the U.S. President 40 years ago? The bolded sentence in your last

paragraph, "Although both sides committed war crimes, the United Nations later found that US-backed Salvadoran government troops and their allies were behind most of them.", set
me thinking. It wasn't tRUMP and the whole affair is nothing I can be proud of.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Dec 8, 2020, 08:35 AM

2. Time for a US Apology to El Salvador

MAY 9-16, 2016 ISSUE

Obama recently expressed regret for US support of Argentina’s “dirty war.” It’s time Washington did the same regarding our active backing of right-wing butchery in El Salvador.

By Raymond Bonner
APRIL 15, 2016

Over the ages, the United States has routinely intervened in Latin America, overthrowing left-wing governments and propping up right-wing dictators. President Obama pressed a reset button of sorts last month when he traveled to Cuba and Argentina. Now it’s time for him to visit a Latin America country that is geographically smallest but where Washington’s footprint is large and the stain of intervention perhaps greatest—El Salvador.

In Argentina, on the 40th anniversary of a military coup that ushered in that country’s “dirty war,” President Obama said it was time for the United States to reflect on its policies during those “dark days.” In the name of fighting communism, the Argentine government hunted down, tortured, and killed suspected leftists—sometimes throwing their bodies out of helicopters into the sea. “We’ve been slow to speak out for human rights and that was the case here,” Obama said.

That failure to speak out looks benign in contrast to the active role Washington played in the “dirty war” in El Salvador in the 1980s, which pitted a right-wing government against Marxist guerrillas. The United States sent military advisers to help the Salvadoran military fight its dirty war, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid.

In Argentina, the security forces killed some 30,000 civilians. In El Salvador, more than 75,000 lost their lives during the civil war, which lasted from 1980 until the 1992 peace agreement. The guerrillas committed atrocities, but the United Nations Truth Commission, established as part of the accord, found that more than 85 percent of the killings, kidnappings, and torture had been the work of government forces, which included paramilitaries, death squads, and army units trained by the United States.

The United States went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador. The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.

In March of 1980, the much beloved and respected Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was murdered. A voice for the poor and repressed, Romero, in his final Sunday sermon, had issued a plea to the country’s military junta that rings through the ages: “In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.” The next day, he was cut down by a single bullet while he was saying a private mass. (In 2015, Pope Francis declared that Romero died a martyr, the final step before sainthood.)


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