From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
|El Salvador's Civil War|
A reminder of one of many massacres that occurred during the Civil War in El Salvador, Central America
| Salvadoran government forces|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Roberto D'Aubuisson|
José Guillermo García
José Napoleón Duarte
| Cayetano Carpio†|
|Casualties and losses|
|7,000 dead||20,000 dead|
|70,000–80,000 (total dead); 8,000 disappeared|
|El Salvador's Civil War|
A reminder of one of many massacres that occurred during the Civil War in El Salvador, Central America
| Salvadoran government forces|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Roberto D'Aubuisson|
José Guillermo García
José Napoleón Duarte
| Cayetano Carpio†|
|Casualties and losses|
|7,000 dead||20,000 dead|
|70,000–80,000 (total dead); 8,000 disappeared|
The Salvadoran Civil War (1979–1992) was a conflict in El Salvador between the country's US-backed military-led government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or 'umbrella organization' of five left-wing guerrilla groups. Significant tensions and violence already existed in the 1970s, before the full-fledged official outbreak of the civil war—which lasted for twelve years.
The conflict ended in the early 1990s. An unknown number of people disappeared, and more than 75,000 were killed.
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. As in many nations of Latin America, the history of El Salvador was characterized by marked socioeconomic inequality. In the late 19th century, coffee became a major cash crop for El Salvador, bringing in approximately 95% of the country's income, which was confined within only 1% of the population. Thus the population was sharply divided between a small powerful elite and an impoverished majority. Extreme tensions between the classes grew through the 1920s, which were only compounded by a drop in coffee prices following the stock-market crash of 1929. In 1932, Augustin Farabundo Marti formed the Central American Socialist Party and led peasants and indigenous people against the government. The government brutally suppressed the uprising in what became known as the 1932 Salvadoran peasant massacre or simply "La Matanza" (the Massacre). In suppressing the uprising, the military murdered between 10,000 and 40,000 Indians. Marti was eventually arrested and put to death, and the military subsequently assumed power over the country. From the 1932 to the 1970s, a succession of military governments employed political repression and limited reform to maintain power, despite the trappings of democracy. The National Conciliation Party was in power from the early 1960s until 1979. The impact of "La Matanza" lasted for decades, as the event served to engender and reinforce feelings of strong distrust and animosity towards the government, the military and the wealthy land elite among the working class.
On July 14, 1969, an armed conflict erupted between El Salvador and Honduras over immigration disputes caused by Honduran land reform laws. The conflict (known as the Football War) lasted only four days, but had major long term effects for Salvadoran society. Trade was disrupted between El Salvador and Honduras, causing tremendous economic damage to both nations. An estimated 300,000 Salvadorans were displaced due to battle, many of whom had been forcibly exiled from Honduras or forced to flee their homes. The government subsequently proved unable to satisfy the economic needs of the refugees. The Football War also served to reinforce the political power of the military in El Salvador, which stifled efforts at democratization in El Salvador and led to heightened corruption and institutionalized fraud.
In the 1970s, the ongoing instability in El Salvador intensified due to a variety of both foreign and domestic factors, and a crisis ensued. The 1973 oil crisis led to rising food prices and decreased agricultural output due to the lack of obtainability of imported goods and petrol-based fertilizers, further compounding the economic situation caused by the Football War. To stem the economic and political problems, a series of token land reform measures were implemented in the mid-1970s by president Arturo Armando Molina. The largest measure, implemented in June 1976, called for the redistribution of approximately 59,000 hectares of land among 12,000 peasant families. The subsequent failure of these reforms due to opposition from the land elite, coupled with rising levels of repression against workers unions and left-leaning political parties, only served to reinforce the widespread discontent with the government.
During presidential elections held on 20 February 1977, a blatant electoral fraud favored the Salvadoran military's preferred candidate, General Carlos Humberto Romero, representing the National Conciliation Party (PCN), against the center-left Revolutionary Party of Democratic Unification (UNO). The electoral fraud itself was met with massive protest and civil disturbance from the popular movement. The short period between the election on 20 February 1977 and the formal inauguration of President Romero on 1 July 1977 was characterized by high levels of social upheaval and state repression. On 28 February 1977, eight days after the elections, a crowd of political demonstrators gathered in an area of downtown San Salvador near 'La Plaza Libertad' to protest the electoral fraud. State security forces arrived on the scene and opened fire on the demonstrators. A large massacre ensued as the security forces spread out for several hours and indiscriminately executed large numbers of civilian demonstrators. Reports on the number of protesters killed ranged from several hundred to over 1,500; fire-hoses were reportedly used in the aftermath to wash away the blood. President Molina blamed the protests on "foreign Communists," and in the immediate aftermath of the massacre a number of top UNO party members were exiled.
Violent repression continued after the inauguration of President Romero, as the government responded to the unrest with state-of-siege declarations, the suspension of civil liberties and systematic use of torture, forced disappearance and extrajudicial killing against the opposition. Government death squads and security forces regularly abducted, tortured and killed unionists, intellectuals, independent farmers, university officials and demonstrators. According to Socorro Jurídico Cristiano (Christian Legal Assistance, a legal aid office within the Archbishop's office and El Salvador's leading human rights group at the time), government repression killed 687 civilians in 1978 and an additional 1,796 in 1979. The repression further alienated the population and prompted many in the Catholic Church to denounce the government. The government responded to the dissent of the Catholic Church by attacking clergy with death threats, "disappearances" and torture.
With tensions mounting and the country on the verge of an insurrection, the civil-military Junta Revolucionaria de Gobierno (Revolutionary Government Junta) — JRG — deposed President General Carlos Humberto Romero in a coup on October 15, 1979. The United States viewed the October 15th coup as a fortuitous event, given the overthrow of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and embraced the junta with large offers of military and economic aid. The United States allocated $5.7 million in military aid for El Salvador in fiscal year 1980, replacing Israel as El Salvador's main source of military supplies. The aid was officially designated to "strengthen the Army's key role in reforms" in order to prevent at all costs "another Nicaragua." Inspired by left-wing politics, and wishing to project a moderately-civilized Salvadoran world image, the JRG effected some land reform (Decree No. 43, 6-XII-1979) restricting landholdings to a hundred-hectare maximum, nationalised the banking, coffee, and sugar industries, scheduled elections for February 1982, and disbanded the paramilitary private death squad ORDEN on November 6, 1979.
Measures aimed at the redistribution of land and wealth caused powerful factions within the military and the wealthy elite began to resist the policies of the JRG, and subsequently, the JRG failed to implement many of its promised reforms. The continuing violence and the JRG's lack of efficacy in implementing reforms bred widespread discontent with the government. Subsequently, tensions between civilians and conservative military sectors escalated. The process of political polarization triggered an unprecedented increase in violence. Left-wing organizations such as the Bloque Popular Revolucionario (BPR), the Ligas Populares 28 de Febrero (LP-28) and the Frente de Acción Popular Unificada (FAPU), among others, held public demonstrations, occupied ministries and organized strikes demanding the release of political prisoners. Economic measures and land tenure reforms were adopted. Organizations within the popular movement subsequently came together to form the Coordinadora Revolucionaria de Masas (CR14).
All three civilian members of the junta resigned on January 3, 1980, along with 10 of the 11 cabinet ministers. On March 9, 1980, José Napoleón Duarte became a member of the junta when the Christian Democratic Party expelled Dada Hizeri, Rubén Zamora and other leaders from its ranks. An unprecedented increase in death squad activities and government repression subsequently took place. On January 22, 1980, the Salvadoran National Guard attacked a massive CR14 demonstration, described as peaceful, killing up to 50 people and wounding hundreds more. On February 6, US ambassador Frank Devine informed the State Department that mutilated bodies were appearing on roadsides as they had done in the worst days of the Romero regime and that the extreme right was arming itself and preparing for a confrontation in which it clearly expected to ally itself with the military.
In February 1980, amidst escalating violence and repression, Archbishop Óscar Romero published an open letter to US President Jimmy Carter in which he pleaded with him to suspend its ongoing program of military aid to the Salvadoran regime. He advised Carter that "Political power is in the hands of the armed forces. They know only how to repress the people and defend the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy." Romero warned that US support would only "sharpen the injustice and repression against the organizations of the people which repeatedly have been struggling to gain respect for their fundamental human rights." On 24 March 1980, the Archbishop was assassinated while giving a mass — a month after his request, and the day after he called upon Salvadoran soldiers and security force members (National Guard, Treasury Police, and National Police) not to follow orders of their commanders to kill Salvadoran civilians, especially farm workers in connection with the newly announced Phase I of government agrarian reform. At his funeral a week later, government-sponsored snipers in the National Palace and/or posted on the periphery of the Gerardo Barrios Plaza in front of the National Cathedral, were responsible for the shooting deaths/trampling massacre of some forty-two mourners.
On 7 May 1980, former Army Major Roberto D'Aubuisson was arrested with a group of civilians and soldiers at a farm. The raiders found documents connecting him and the civilians as organizers and financiers of the death squad who killed Archbishop Romero, and of plotting a coup d’état against the JRG. Their arrest provoked right-wing terrorist threats and institutional pressures forcing the JRG to release Maj. D’Aubuisson. In 1993, a U.N. investigation confirmed that Maj. D'Aubuisson ordered Archbishop Romero assassinated.
In addition to repression and violence in cities, rural violence began to escalate. Exactly one week after the arrest of Roberto D'Aubuisson for the assassination of Oscar Romero, the National Guard and the newly reorganized paramilitary Organización Nacional Democrática (ORDEN), with the cooperation of the Military of Honduras, carried a large massacre at the Sumpul on May 14, 1980, in which an estimated 600 civilians were killed, mostly women and children. When the villagers were attempting to escape violence by crossing the river they were prevented from reaching the other side by the Honduran armed forces "and then killed by Salvadorian troops who fired on them in cold blood."
The United States continued to supply military aid and advisers to the JRG, blaming much of the state repression on independent right-wing "death squads" rather than the government. Assigning responsibility for the repression became the source of intense ideological polarization in the United States. An internal US State Department memo from 1981 stated that the "death squads" were "usually a euphemism for the security or military forces." Over the course of 1980, the Salvadoran Army and three main security forces (National Guard, National Police and Treasury Police) killed 11,895 people. Most of the victims were peasants, trade unionists, teachers, students, journalists, human rights advocates, priests, and anyone working in the interest of the poor majority. More people were killed due to state repression in El Salvador in 1980 than in all other nations of Latin America combined. The Salvadoran government subsequently gained recognition among human rights organizations as the hemisphere's most errant violator of human rights.
The US Bureau of Affairs later stated "The immediate goal of the Salvadoran army and security forces—and of the United States in 1980, was to prevent a takeover by the leftist-led guerrillas and their allied political organizations. At this point in the Salvadoran conflict the latter were much more important than the former. The military resources of the rebels were extremely limited and their greatest strength, by far, lay not in force of arms but in their "mass organizations" made up of labor unions, student and peasant organizations that could be mobilized by the thousands in El Salvador's major cities and could shut down the country through strikes." Critics of US military aid charged that "it would legitimate what has become dictatorial violence and that political power in El Salvador lay with old-line military leaders in government positions who practice a policy of 'reform with repression.'" A prominent Catholic spokesman insisted that "any military aid you send to El Salvador ends up in the hands of the military and paramilitary rightest groups who are themselves at the root of the problems of the country."
On December 2, 1980, the Salvadoran National Guard raped and murdered four American nuns and a laywoman. Maryknoll missionary nuns Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, and Ursuline nun Dorothy Kazel, and laywoman Jean Donovan were on a Catholic relief mission providing food, shelter, transport, medical care, and burial to death squad victims. U.S. military aid was briefly cutoff in response to the murders, but would be renewed within six weeks.
As government-sanctioned violence increased in both rural and urban settings, previously non-militant mass political groups metamorphosed into guerrilla fronts. The five main insurgent groups subsequently formed unity agreements and merged, while increasing the scale of their attacks. In May 1980, the Salvadoran revolutionary leadership met in Havana, forming the consolidated politico-military command, the DRU — Dirección Revolucionaria Unificada (Unified Revolutionary Directorate). In October, they founded the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (comprising the Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación Nacional [FMLN] and the Frente Democrático Revolucionario [FDR]) honoring insurgent hero Farabundo Martí, whom the Salvadoran National Guard killed in 1932. In late-1980, the FMLN announced plans for an insurrection against the government of El Salvador. The insurrection began on 10 January 1981 with the FMLN's first, major attack. The attack established FMLN control of most of Morazán and Chalatenango departments for the war's duration. Attacks were launched on military targets throughout the country, leaving hundreds of people dead. Government sources reported that "at least 500 extremists" had died in the final offensive.
After the onset of the offensive, United States Operational Planning and Assistance Teams (OPATs) took over the training of the Salvadoran armed forces, logistics procedures, and Command and Control planning. At the Salvadoran High Command, U.S. military advisers prosecuted the war operationally and with intelligence. In addition, the outgoing Carter administration increased military aid to the Salvadoran armed forces to $10 million which included $5 million in rifles, ammunition, grenades and helicopters. In justifying these arms shipments, the administration claimed that the regime had taken "positive steps" to investigate the murder of four American nuns but this was disputed by US Ambassador, Robert E. White, who said that he could find no evidence the junta was "conducting a serious investigation."
During the same month, the JRG strengthened the state of siege, imposed by President Carlos Humberto Romero in May 1979, by declaring martial law and adopting a new set of curfew regulations. Between January 12 and February 19, 1981, 168 persons were killed by the security forces for violating curfew.
In its effort to defeat the insurgency, the Salvadoran Armed Forces carried out a "scorched earth" strategy adopting tactics similar to those being employed by the counterinsurgency in neighboring Guatemala. These tactics where primarily derived and adapted from U.S. strategy during the Vietnam War, and taught by American military advisors. An integral part of the Salvadoran Army's counterinsurgency strategy entailed "draining the sea" or "drying up the ocean," that is, eliminating the insurgency by eradicating it's support base in the countryside. The primary target was the civilian population – displacing them in order to remove any possible base of support for the rebels. The concept of "draining the sea" had its basis in a doctrine by Mao Zedong which emphasized that "The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea." Aryeh Neier, the executive director of Americas Watch wrote in a review of 1984: "This may be an effective strategy for winning the war. It is, however, a strategy that involves the use of terror tactics — bombings, strafings, shellings and, occasionally, massacres of civilians." Beginning in 1983, guerrilla strongholds were found by U.S. reconnaissance planes that relayed intelligence to the Salvadoran military.
The repression in rural areas resulted in the displacement of large portions of the rural populace, and many peasants fled. Of those who fled or were displaced, some 20,000 resided in makeshift refugee centers on the Honduran border in conditions of poverty, starvation and disease. The army and death squads forced many of them to flee to the United States but most were denied asylum. On January 17–18, 1981, a US congressional delegation visited the refugee camps in El Salvador on a fact finding mission and submitted a report to Congress. The delegation concluded that "the Salvadoran method of 'drying up the ocean' is to eliminate entire villages from the map, to isolate the guerrillas, and deny them any rural base off which they can feed."
The government's systematic use of terror-tactics and violent repression against the civilian population escalated through 1981. Sources estimate that the army and security forces killed 16,000 civilians in total over the course of that year. In its report covering 1981, Amnesty International identified "regular security and military units as responsible for widespread torture, mutilation and killings of noncombatant civilians from all sectors of Salvadoran society." The report also stated that the killing of civilians by state security forces became increasingly systematic with the implementation of more methodical killing strategies, which allegedly included use of a meat packing plant to dispose of human remains. Between August 20 and August 25, 1981, eighty-three decapitations were reported. The murders were later revealed to have been carried out by a death squad using a guillotine.
In late-1981, the Atlacatl Battalion, organized in 1980 at the US Army School of the Americas in Panama, was deployed in the Morazán Department in the northeastern part of the country, a major stronghold for the FMLN. On December 11, 1981, the Atlacatl Battalion occupied the village of El Mozote and massacred at least 733 and possibly up to 1,000 unarmed civilians in what became known as the El Mozote Massacre. The Atlacatl soldiers accused the adults of collaborating with the guerrillas. The field commander said they were under orders to kill everyone, including the children, who he asserted would just grow up to become guerrillas if they let them live. "We were going to make an example of these people," he said. Despite having been initially denied by the Reagan Administration, details became more widely known and the event became recognized as one of the worst atrocities of the conflict.
In 1982, the FMLN began calling for a peace settlement that would establish a "government of broad participation." The Reagan administration said they wanted to create a Communist dictatorship. Elections were interrupted with right-wing paramilitary attacks and FMLN-suggested boycotts. El Salvador's National Federation of Lawyers, which represented all of the country's bar associations, refused to participate in drafting the 1982 electoral law. The lawyers said that the elections couldn't possibly be free and fair during a state of siege that suspended all basic rights and freedoms. The News-Gazette, the country's English-language conservative newspaper supported the national bar association's stand.
Pursuant with measures put in place by the JRG on October 18, 1979, elections for an interim government were held on April 29, 1982. The Legislative Assembly voted on three candidates nominated by the armed forces, Álvaro Alfredo Magaña Borja, leader of the moderate Democratic Action and thus effectively politically independent, was elected by 36 votes to 17, ahead of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and Party of National Conciliation candidates. Roberto D'Aubuisson accused Jaime Abdul Gutiérrez Avendaño of imposing on the Assembly "his personal decision to put Álvaro Alfredo Magaña Borja in the presidency" in spite of a "categorical no" from the ARENA deputies. Magana was sworn into office on 2 May. Decree No. 6 of the National Assembly suspended phase III of the implementation of the agrarian reform, and was itself later amended. The Apaneca Pact was signed on 3 August 1982, establishing a Government of National Unity, whose objectives were peace, democratization, human rights, economic recovery, security and a strengthened international position. An attempt was made to form a transitional Government which would establish a democratic system. Lack of agreement among the forces that made up the Government and the pressures of the armed conflict prevented any substantive changes from being made during Magaña's Presidency.
The activities of the insurgency continued during the period of interim government, as did government repression. The FMLN attacked the Ilopango Air Force Base, destroying six of the Air Forces 14 Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, five of its 18 Dassault Ouragan aircraft and three C-47s. The guerrillas stepped up their activities against economic targets. Between February and April, a total of 439 acts of sabotage were reported. The number of acts of sabotage involving explosives or arson rose to 782 between January and September. The United States Embassy estimated the damage to the economic infrastructure at US$98 million. FMLN also carried out large-scale operations in the capital city and temporarily occupied urban centres in the countrys interior. According to some reports, the number of rebels ranged between 4,000 and 5,000; other sources put the number at between 6,000 and 9,000.
Systemic and widespread human rights violations by the Salvadoran military and security forces continued at high levels during the period of interim government. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that on May 24, 1982, a clandestine cemetery containing the corpses of 150 disappeared persons was discovered near Puerta del Diablo, Panchimalco, approximately twelve kilometers from San Salvador. On June 10, 1982, almost 4,000 Salvadoran troops carried out a "cleanup" operation in the rebel-controlled Chalatenango province. Over 600 civilians were reportedly massacred during the Army sweep. The Salvadoran field commander acknowledged that an unknown number of civilian rebel sympathizers or "masas" were killed, while declaring the operation a success. 19 days later, the Army massacred 27 unarmed civilians during house raids in a San Salvador neighborhood. The woman were raped and murdered. Everyone was dragged from their homes into the street and then executed. "The operation was a success," said the Salvadoran Defense Ministry communique. "This action was a result of training and professionalization of our officers and soldiers."
During 1982 and 1983, government forces killed approximately 8,000 civilians a year. Although the figure is substantially less than the figures reported by human rights groups in 1980 and 1981, targeted executions as well as indiscriminate killings nonetheless remained an integral policy of the army and internal security forces, part of what Professor William Stanley of the University of New Mexico has described as a “strategy of mass murder” designed to terrorize the civilian population as well as opponents of the government. General Adolfo Blandón, the Salvadoran armed forces chief of staff during much of the 1980s, has stated, "Before 1983, we never took prisoners of war." 
By January 1984, Americas Watch observed that the human rights situation was "as bad as ever" and that "the principal reason that those abuses continue at such a high rate at a point when — one would guess — the armed forces should have run out of politically suspect persons to murder is that the murders instill terror. Terror is the means whereby the armed forces maintain their authority."
On February 7, 1984, nine labor leaders, including all seven top officials of one major federation, were arrested by the Salvadoran National Police and sent to a military court. The arrests were part of Duarte's moves to crackdown on labor unions after more than 80 trade unionists were detained in a raid by the National Police. The police confiscated the union's files and took videotape mugshots of each union member. During a 15 day interrogation, the nine labor leaders were beaten during late night questioning and were told to confess to being guerrillas. They were then forced to sign a written confession while blindfolded. They were never charged with being guerrillas but the official police statement said they were accused of planning to "present demands to management for higher wages and benefits and promoting strikes, which destabilize the economy." A U.S. official said the embassy had "followed the arrests closely and was satisfied that the correct procedures were followed."
In February, U.S. military advisers instructed the Salvadoran Air Force to intensify bombing raids in conflictive and rebel-held zones. The Air Force was aided by new U.S. reconnaissance flights that supply it with improved intelligence. In April, the Roman Catholic Church's human rights office, the Tute-la Legal, said the number of civilians killed during military missions rose from 195 in February to more than 300 in March. Maria Julia Hernandez, the director of the office, noted a sudden increase in bombing accuracy since the new U.S. reconnaissance flights began in February. She suggested the Air Force was using intelligence derived from U.S. reconnaissance to attack civilians suspected of being rebel sympathizers.
Also in April, residents and displaced people from the Cuscatlan and Cabanas provinces said the Salvadoran Air Force had increased indiscriminate bombing raids and that the attacks had become much more accurate in recent weeks. "They used to bomb and it wouldn't land near to the houses, but now they have something to detect exactly where we are," a displaced person from Guazapa said. "No one is safe in their homes, no one is safe anywhere." "Towns such as El Zapote, El Corozal, Tres Cevas, Palo Grande, and Mirandilla no longer exist," another woman contended. Chris Hedges, a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor who was at one village in the area, said it resembled a ghost town and that every home appeared to have been bombed and strafed by machine-gun fire. Those who escaped said that leaving the free fire zones was just as dangerous. "When we fled," said one woman whose children and husband were killed in a bombing attack, "the Army was not on the road, so we survived. If they see you coming down from the volcano, they will kill you." The Air Force reportedly used incendiary bombs such as Napalm or White phosphorus to burn villages to the ground and charr large tracts of land before Army sweeps.
In the preceding months, the Salvadoran military had used the Red Cross's humanitarian activities to locate and attack displaced people who gathered at clinics to receive medical assistance and food. The United States Embassy and the Salvadoran government argued that most of the civilians killed were rebel sympathizers (masas). Although, the practice was later terminated by U.S. advisers after protests by Americas Watch.
In 1984, the U.S. Embassy had characterized the civilians residing in FMLN zones as "masas," a term that originated with the guerrillas. According to the Embassy, these masas were "something other than innocent civilian bystanders" because it said they provided "logistical support" for the guerrillas and "mingled" with them. As best the Americas Watch could determine, the "logistical support" consisted principally in maintaining their traditional subsistence farming, thereby providing themselves and the guerrillas with a source of food. "Mingling" consisted principally in trying to remain in or near their original communities and not joining the vast refugee and displaced person populations. Accordingly, Americas Watch criticized the Embassy's stand. We said that calling these civilians "something other than innocent civilian bystanders" implied they were legitimate targets for attack. Moreover, Salvadoran and U.S. officials continue to attempt to justify attacks on civilians.
— Americas Watch, 1985
In 1984 elections, Christian Democrat José Napoleón Duarte won the presidency (with 54% of the votes) against Army Major Roberto d’Aubuisson, of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). The elections were held under military rule, however, and candidates to the left of Duarte's brand of Christian Democrats were excluded from participating. Lord Chitnis, a spokesman for the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group which observed the elections said the elections were held in an "atmosphere of terror and despair, of macabre rumor and grisly reality."
Fearful of a d’Aubuisson presidency for public relations purposes, the CIA financed Duarte's campaign with some two million dollars. "Duarte is the man who has been able to open the coffers of the [US] Congress, and the military realizes that," said a Salvadoran political analyst. "They wont get rid of the goose that is laying golden eggs. He's the democratic facade so everybody doesn't have to worry because there's a democratic president there." Similarly, the Christian Science Monitor reported that "the economic right — the extremely conservative Salvadoran private sector — are realizing that Duarte can deliver the goods. Strangely, for a populist politician, President Duarte brags, in full-page newspaper ads, not about what he has done for his poor supporters, but about what he has done for his arch enemies— the coffee growers." Although, Duarte's political rivals in the ARENA party often referred to him as a "Communist" or Communist sympathizer.
After President José Napoleon Duarte's election in 1984, human rights abuses at the hands of the army and security forces continued, but declined due to modifications made to the security structures. The policies of the Duarte government attempted to make the country's three security forces more accountable to the government by placing them under the direct supervision of a Vice Minister of Defense, but all three forces continued to be commanded individually by regular army officers, which, given the command structure within the government, served to effectively nullify any of the accountability provisions. The Duarte government also failed to decommission personnel within the security structures that had been involved in gross human rights abuses, instead simply dispersing them to posts in other regions of the country.
An Americas Watch report noted that the Atlacatl Battalion killed 80 unarmed civilians in Cabanas in July, 1984 and carried out another massacre one month later, killing 50 displaced people in the Chalatenango province. The woman were raped and then everyone was systematically executed.
In August, guerrilla spokesman said the Army killed 64 civilian masas in their hiding places. Dan Williams, a Los Angeles Times correspondent on the scene reported that he had found half a dozen skeletons in one of the hiding places. Civilian masas told reporters in the area that the army massacred the people. Williams also discovered fourteen spent machinegun cartridges not far from the skeletons. He said that among the bodies he could see the remains of young children. However, Los Angeles Times reporter Dan Williams concluded that, "It is difficult to know exactly what happened. Rebels charge that government planes routinely bomb civilian concentrations and that government troops slaughter civilians at random. U.S. officials here say this is not so, but at the same time they say that the people sometimes place themselves in harm's way."
A new strategy reported in January 1985, created 12 free-fire zones in the northern Chalatenango province. The program was designed to help deprive the guerrillas of support from the civilian population. Lieutenant Colonel Sigifredo Ochoa Perez, the military commander of Cabanas Department, acknowledged that indiscriminate bombing was being carried out these areas. Ochoa's forces were implicated in a massacre of about 40 civilians in an Army sweep through one of the free fire zones in August. Ochoa refused to permit the Red Cross to enter these areas to deliver humanitarian aid to the victims.
Although Ochoa's troops usually avoided combat with the guerrillas, he reportedly uprooted some 1,400 civilian rebel supporters with mortar fire between September and November 1984. Ochoa, a former acting director of the Treasury Policy and political ally of Major Roberto d'Aubuisson, had been convicted of mutiny and exiled to the U.S. Army War College until U.S. advisers appointed him commander of the Cabanas Department. Ochoa's tactics and accomplishments made him a favorite among many of his mentors.
The London Economist noted continued death squad threats against people at the University: "This is a reminder that the right- wing terror machine is still in running order. President Jose Napoleon Duarte has been in office for more than a year, but nobody has yet been convicted for the tens of thousands of murders committed since 1979 by military-manned death squads. He has noticeably shifted to the right, reassuring the army and the businessmen that his aims are really the same as theirs." The director of the National Association of Private Enterprise said, "the man has been politically educated." The army too "has come to apreciate the president's skill, both as a tactician who can use peace talks to outmanoeuvre the guerrillas and as a salesman in Washington," the Economist added.
In El Salvador's "Continuing Terror" in 1985, Americas Watch observes that "President Duarte's civilian government notwithstanding, the human rights situation in El Salvador remains terrible." War crimes by the military were reported to include: "aerial bombardments, strafing, mortaring and Army ground operations that kill, maim and terrorize the civilian population and that deprive them of the food they need to survive"; "a resurgence in death squad activity"; and the "continuing, selective use of torture by the security forces, including such methods as electronic shock, hangings by arms and legs, the capucha and beatings." The Council on Hemispheric Affairs designated Guatemala and El Salvador as the Western Hemisphere's worst human rights violators for the sixth year in a row in 1985.
The number of death squad victims declined significantly by 1985. The trade unions and mass political organizations had been wiped out, forcing most of the survivors to flee the country or join the rebels. Bodies continued to be dumped in Lake Ilopango and occasionally washed on to shore, reminding people that the repression continued. A national opinion poll conducted in 1986 by the Catholic University showed that 10% of the population believed that the country was advancing to democracy; 28% said conditions had improved but that repression continued; 45% thought there was no significant change; and 18% believed freedom and democracy were diminishing. In February 1986, tens of thousands of people put aside their fear and marched through the streets of San Salvador to protest Duarte's economic Austerity plan. The economic package included a currency devaluation, increases in gas prices, import taxes, import restrictions and a few price freezes on basic goods. The Austerity measures were designed by U.S. economic advisers who warned American aid might be withheld if the programs were not implemented.
During the Central American Peace Accords in 1987, the FMLN demanded that all death squads be disbanded and the members be held accountable. The Duarte government responded by granting amnesty to hundreds of guerrillas as well as all death squad members. The Amnesty law also required the release of all prisoners suspected of being guerrillas and guerrilla sympathizers. Duarte was reported to have deliberately undermined the process at the behest of the United States and the military. He cemented preconditions for peace talks that he knew the guerrillas would never accept, such as laying down their arms. Washington's overall strategy was for Duarte "to give the appearance of scrupulously adhering to the plan while simultaneously taking positions that will allow them to blame the rebels for the plan's failure." Unlike Nicaragua's National Reconciliation Commission, which consisted of a government appointed principal opponent, as required by the peace plan, the Salvadoran commission was exclusively filled with political allies of the military-oligarchy. Moreover, the government's continued arrests and disappearances of trade unionists and members of other opposition groups made national reconciliation impossible. Meanwhile, the guerrillas were able to carry out successful attacks against military outposts in the countryside after gaining the support from the town's mostly conservative residents. In the 1988 elections, the Salvadoran Army intimidated the voters and the ARENA party fixed the results.
In late 1987 and throughout 1988 following the signing of the Central American Peace Agreement, state repression began to escalate dramatically. As had occurred in the 1970s, the 1988 elections were followed by escalated government violence, as part of a deliberate campaign to terrorize voters. An Amnesty International report published in October 1988 titled, El Salvador Death Squads: A Government Strategy, concluded that "Forces involved include all branches of the Salvadorian security apparatus, including the navy, air force and army and the security services, --- including the National Guard, the National Police and the Treasury Police. Personnel from these units have carried out torture and extrajudicial execution and have been responsible for "disappearances" - both while in uniform and in plain clothes. The death squad style is to operate in secret but to leave mutilated bodies of victims as a means of terrifying the population. Victims are customarily found mutilated, decapitated, dismembered, strangled or showing marks of torture or rape." The report also concluded that clandestine paramilitary units were used so the government wouldn't take the heat for state terrorism. According to Maria Julia Hernandez, director of the Roman Catholic Church's human rights office, death squad killings always escalated when opposition activity increased and the government couldn't control it.
Angered by the results of the 1988 elections and the military's use of terror tactics and voter intimidation, the FMLN launched a major offensive with the aim of unseating the Christiani government on November 11, 1989. This offensive brought the epicenter of fighting into the wealthy suburbs of San Salvador for essentially the first time in the history of the conflict, as the FMLN began a campaign of selective assassinations against political and military officials, civil officials, and upper-class private citizens. The government retaliated with a renewed campaign of repression, primarily against activists in the democratic sector. The non-governmental Salvadoran Human Rights Commission (CDHES) counted 2,868 killings by the armed forces between May 1989 and May 1990. In addition, the CDHES stated that government paramilitary organizations illegally detained 1,916 persons and disappeared 250 during the same period. As in the early 1980s, the University of Central America fell under attack from the army and death squads. On 16 November 1989, five days after the beginning of the FMLN offensive, the Atlacatl Battalion entered the campus of the University of Central America in uniform and summarily executed six Jesuit priests—Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Joaquín López y López, Juan Ramón Moreno, and Amando López—and their housekeepers (a mother and daughter, Elba Ramos and Celia Marisela Ramos). In the middle of the night, the six priests were dragged from their beds on the campus, machine gunned to death and their corpses mutilated. The mother and daughter were found shot to death in the bed they shared. The Atlacatl Battalion was reportedly under the tutelage of U.S. special forces just 48 hours before the killings. The liberation theology bishops were declared an enemy of the state for speaking out against state terror and working for the "preferential option of the poor."
By the late 1980s, 75% of the population lived in poverty. The living standards of most Salvadorans declined by 30% since 1983. Unemployment or underemployment increased to 50%. Most people, moreover, still didn't have access to clean water or healthcare. The armed forces were feared, inflation rose almost 40%, capital flight reached an estimated $1 billion, and the economic elite avoided paying taxes. Despite nearly $3 billion in American economic assistance, per capita income declined by one third. American aid was distributed to urban businesses although the impoverished majority received almost none of it. The Congressional Research Service said the "ESF [U.S. Economic Support Fund] in Central America is basically a security/military program undertaken to prop up the existing regimes and the elites who support them.." The United States had been providing most of the country's budget and underwriting almost all government policies. The concentration of wealth was even higher than before the U.S.-administered land reform program. The agrarian law generated windfall profits for the economic elite and buried the cooperatives in debts that left them incapable of competing in the capital markets. The oligarchs often took back the land from bankrupt peasants who couldn't obtain the credit necessary to pay for seeds and fertilizer. Although, "few of the poor would dream of seeking legal redress against a landlord because virtually no judge would favor a poor man." By 1989, 1% of the landowners owned 41% of the tillable land, while 60% of the rural population owned 0%.
After 10 years of war, more than one million people had been displaced out of a population of 5,389,000. 40% of the homes of newly displaced people were completely destroyed and another 25% were in need of major repairs. Death squad activities further escalated in 1990, despite a U.N. Agreement on Human Rights signed July 26 by the Cristiani government and the FMLN. In June 1990, U.S. President George Bush announced an "Enterprise for the Americas Initiative" to improve the investment climate by creating "a hemisphere-wide free trade zone."
"For the first time, all five of the countries are led by presidents who were elected in contests widely considered free and fair," the Washington Post reported from Guatemala City. It is true, the Post continues, that "conservative politicians in Central America traditionally represented the established order despite their countries' grossly distorted income patterns. But the wave of democracy that has swept the region in recent years appears to be shifting politicians' priorities," while observing that, "The new leaders...are committed to free-market economics." The Post explains, "Neither in the plan nor in the Declaration of Antigua' was there any mention of land reform or suggestion of new government social welfare programs to help the poor." Rather, they are adopting "a trickle-down approach to aid the poor." "The idea is to help the poor without threatening the basic power structure," a Central American economist observes. Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas said he believed President Cristiani was committed to maintaining the system, favoring neoliberal programs that had been increasing poverty.
President Bush authorized the release of $42.5 million in military aid to the Salvadoran armed forces on January 16, 1991. In late January, the Usulután offices of the Democratic Convergence, a coalition of left-of-center parties, were attacked with grenades. On February 21, a candidate for the Democratic National Unity (UDN) party and his pregnant wife were assassinated after ignoring death squad threats to leave the country or die. On the last day of the campaign, another UDN candidate was shot in her eye when Arena party gunmen opened fire on campaign activists putting up posters. Despite fraudulent elections orchestrated by Arena through voter intimidation, sabotage of polling stations by the Arena-dominated Central Elections Council and the disappearing of tens of thousands of names from the voting lists, the official U.S. observation team declared them "free and fair."
Death squad killings and disappearances remained steady throughout 1991 as well as torture, false imprisonment, and attacks on civilians by the Army and security forces. Opposition politicians and members of church and grassroots organizations representing peasants, women and repatriated refugees suffered constant death threats, arrests, surveillance and break-ins all year. The FMLN killed two wounded U.S. military advisers and carried out indiscriminate attacks, kidnappings and assassinations of civilians. The war intensified in mid-1991, as both the army and the FMLN attempted to gain the advantage in the United Nations-brokered peace talks prior to a cease-fire. Indiscriminate attacks and executions by the armed forces increased as a result. Eventually, by April 1991, negotiations resumed, resulting in a truce that successfully concluded in January 1992, bringing about the war's end. On 16 January 1992, the Chapultepec Peace Accords were signed in Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City, to bring peace to El Salvador,. The Armed Forces were regulated, a civilian police force was established, the FMLN metamorphosed from a guerrilla army to a political party, and an amnesty law was legislated in 1993.
The peace process set up under the Chapultepec Accords was monitored by the United Nations from 1991 until June 1997 when it closed its special monitoring mission in El Salvador.
During the 2004 elections, White House Special Assistant Otto Reich gave a phone-in press conference at ARENA party headquarters. He reportedly said he was worried about the impact an FMLN win could have on the country's "economic, commercial, and migratory relations with the United States." In February 2004, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega told voters to "consider what kind of a relationship they want a new administration to have with us." He met with all the candidates except Schafik Handal, the FMLN candidate. This prompted 28 US Congress members to send a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell saying Mr. Noriega "crossed a boundary" and that his remarks were perceived as "interference in Salvadoran electoral affairs." A week later, two US congressmen blasted Reich's comments as inflammatory.
At war's end, the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador registered more than 22,000 complaints of political violence in El Salvador, between January 1980 and July 1991, 60 percent about summary killing, 25 percent about kidnapping, and 20 percent about torture. These complaints attributed almost 85 percent of the violence to the Salvadoran Army and security forces alone. The Salvadoran Armed Forces were accused in 60 percent of the complaints, the security forces (i.e. the National Guard, Treasury Police and the National Police) in 25 percent, military escorts and civil defense units in 20 percent of complaints, the death squads in approximately 10 percent, and the FMLN in 5 percent. The Truth Commission could collect only a significant sample of the full number of potential complaints, having had only three months to collect it. The report concluded that more than 70,000 people were killed, many in the course of gross violation of their human rights. More than 25 per cent of the populace was displaced as refugees before the U.N. peace treaty in 1992.
The statistics presented in the Truth Commission's report are consistent with both previous and retrospective assessments by the international community and human rights monitors, which documented that the majority of the violence and repression in El Salvador was attributable to government agencies, primarily the National Guard and the Salvadoran Army. A 1984 Amnesty International report stated that that many of the 40,000 people killed in the preceding five years had been murdered by government forces, who openly dumped the mutilated corpses, in an apparent effort to terrorize the population.
Despite mostly killing peasants, the Government readily killed any opponent they suspected of sympathy with the guerrillas — clergy (men and women), church lay workers, political activists, journalists, labor unionists (leaders, rank-and-file), medical workers, liberal students and teachers, and human-rights monitors. The State's terrorism was affected by the security forces, the Army, the National Guard, and the Treasury Police; yet it was the paramilitary death squads who gave the Government plausible deniability of, and accountability for, the political killings. Typically, a death squad dressed in civilian clothes and traveled in anonymous vehicles (dark windows, blank license plates). Their terrorism comprised publishing future-victim death lists, delivering coffins to said future victims, and sending the target-person an invitation to his/her own funeral. Cynthia Arnson, a Latin American-affairs writer for Human Rights Watch, says: the objective of death-squad-terror seemed not only to eliminate opponents, but also, through torture and the gruesome disfigurement of bodies, to terrorize the population. In the mid-1980s, state terror against Salvadorans became open — indiscriminate bombing from military airplanes, planted mines, and the harassment of national and international medical personnel; all indicate that, although death rates attributable to the death squads have declined in El Salvador since 1983, non-combatant victims of the civil war have increased dramatically.
Though the violations of the FMLN accounted for five percent or less of those documented by the Truth Commission, the FMLN continuously violated the human rights of many Salvadorans and other individuals identified as right-wing supporters, military targets, pro-government politicians, intellectuals, public officials, and judges. These violations included kidnapping, bombings, rape, and killing.
In accordance with the peace agreements, the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances. During the period of fulfilling of the peace agreements, the Minister of Defense was General Humberto Corado Figueroa. Demobilization of Salvadoran military forces generally proceeded on schedule throughout the process. The Treasury Police and National Guard were abolished, and military intelligence functions were transferred to civilian control. By 1993 — nine months ahead of schedule — the military had cut personnel from a wartime high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF strength stood at less than 15,000, including uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, consisting of personnel in the army, navy, and air force. A purge of military officers accused of human rights abuses and corruption was completed in 1993 in compliance with the Ad Hoc Committee's recommendations.
The new civilian police force, created to replace the discredited public security forces, deployed its first officers in March 1993, and was present throughout the country by the end of 1994. As of 1999, the PNC had over 18,000 officers. The PNC faced many challenges in building a completely new police force. With common crime rising dramatically since the end of the war, over 500 PNC officers had been killed in the line of duty by late 1998. PNC officers also have arrested a number of their own in connection with various high-profile crimes, and a "purification" process to weed out unfit personnel from throughout the force was undertaken in late 2000.
In 1986, a major earthquake punctuated the war; and for three years fighting lessened and calls for negotiation grew within the context of the rising social movement, The National Debate for Peace; also the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador-non governmental (CDHES) published a 165-page report documenting the routine use of forty types of torture applied to political prisoners in the Mariona men's prison, and that U.S. military advisers often supervised and sometimes participated in said interrogations.
On 26 October 1987, Herbert Ernesto Anaya, head of the CDHES, was assassinated. His killing provoked four days' of political protest — during which his cadaver was displayed before the U.S. embassy and then before the Salvadoran armed forces headquarters. The National Union of Salvadoran Workers said: Those who bear sole responsibility for this crime are José Napoleón Duarte, the U.S. embassy ... and the high command of the armed forces. In its report the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, established as part of the El Salvador peace agreement, stated that it could not establish for sure whether the death squads, the Salvadoran Army or the FMLN was responsible for Anaya's death.
Moreover, the FMLN and the Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDR) also protested Mr. Anaya's assassination by suspending negotiations with the Duarte Government on 29 October 1987. The same day, Reni Roldán resigned from the Commission of National Reconciliation, saying: The murder of Anaya, the disappearance of university labor leader Salvador Ubau, and other events do not seem to be isolated incidents. They are all part of an institutionalized pattern of conduct. Mr. Anaya's assassination evoked international indignation: the West German Government, the West German Social Democratic Party, and the French Government asked President Duarte to clarify the circumstances of the crime. United Nations Secretary General, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Americas Watch, Amnesty International, and other organizations protested against the assassination of the leader of the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador.
On September 7, 1960, the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador cabled the State Department requesting immediate implementation of the proposed Public Safety program in response to what they termed, increasing "subversive" activity: "El Salvador's current capability to ensure its internal security requires strengthening on an urgent basis...Underground propaganda and other types of subversive anti-government activities continue to be carried out.." Charles Maechling Jr., who led U.S. counterinsurgency and internal defense planning from 1961 to 1966, explains that the administration modified the role of the armed forces in Latin America from "hemispheric defense" to "internal security." General Robert Porter, Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command, summarized the purpose of this support in a Congressional hearing in 1968, saying that United States military assistance and AID Public Safety projects in Latin America were "an insurance policy protecting our vast private investment in an area of tremendous trade and strategic value to our country." The 1980 Committee of Santa Fe report, written by a team of US foreign policy advisers for the Reagan team, emphasizes that, "U.S. foreign policy must begin to counter (not react against) liberation theology as it is utilized in Latin America by the 'liberation theology' clergy."
During the civil war, the U.S. Congress required the Reagan administration to provide a progress report on the human rights situation every six months for "certification" as a condition for further military aid. Amnesty International researcher Michael McClintock and Americas Watch noted a consistent pattern of increases and abatements in the political killing for 1981 and 1982: "rises during the middle of a certification period and sharp drop-offs as certification approaches," "suggesting a capacity to reign in the counter-terror programme when political expediency so demanded."
Joya Martinez admitted he was a member of a death squad unit at a November 1, 1989 press conference in Mexico after deserting from the Salvadoran Army. He then informed the U.S. Congress, human rights organizations and CBS News that his unit's purpose was to "disappear" suspected dissidents, torture them to extract intelligence and then execute them by strangulation, cutting their throats, or injecting them with poison. He said they were warned off from using bullets so the killings wouldn't be traced back to the Army. He indicated that his unit killed 72 people from April to July 1989. According to Martinez, U.S. advisers were in charge of the First Brigade. One of the advisers sat a desk next to his and received "all the reports from our agents on clandestine captures, interrogations...but we did not provide them with reports on the executions. They did not want to hear of the actual killings." U.S. advisers provided them with a safehouse to use as a secret base of operations and squad vans specially equipped with black glass to enable executions to take place without being seen; financed their activities with a budget of $4,000 a month; and provided training in recruiting informants and conducting intelligence reconnaissance. A Washington Post investigation claimed that "a US adviser specializing in intelligence and another U.S. adviser works in liaison with the First Brigade, and that the CIA routinely pays all expenses for intelligence operations in the brigades." After interviewing Joya Martinez, Americas Watch concluded that from their years of experience in documenting death squad killings in El Salvador, they believe his testimony to be true.
Additionally, the CIA and U.S. military advisers reportedly financed, trained, and advised Salvadoran Army and intelligence units that routinely engaged in clandestine terror operations. As part of their function, these units would disappear political adversaries, torture them at the general staff headquarters and then execute them. The torture techniques usually included beatings, burnings and electric shocks. They would also go on assassination missions and then dump the bodies in remote areas. One of the death squads was the National Intelligence Agency (ANI), an operations-oriented counter-intelligence unit set up by the CIA to replace ANSESAL when it was dissolved by the reformist junta in 1979. The other two units were the general staff, Department 2 and Department 5, directed toward intelligence-gathering. Both of these groups were organized by U.S. Army Col. David Rodriguez in the early 1980s.
"Department 5 suddenly started coordinating everything," said admitted death squad officer Ricardo Castro. "It's pretty much become the political intelligence apparatus within the general staff. They've also got a large paramilitary force of people dressed in civilian clothes, and they are capable of acting independently. In military theory, they should be doing the investigation and then they should be relying on actual organized forces to carry out whatever they deem is necessary, but sometimes they don't need them. The elements they deal with—labor leaders and so on—they are capable of doing it all themselves. They can knock someone off all by themselves, or capture them." Ricardo Castro was a company commander in the Salvadoran Army who was a CIA operative and served as a translator for a U.S. military adviser instructing the armed forces on overseas assassinations at the general staff headquarters. Castro said the American instructor also conducted interrogation training in psychological techniques and selective torture such as electric shocks. "In some cases it was applicable; in others it was counterproductive," he said. The U.S. instructor also served as an adviser to Major Pineda Guerra, Lieutenant Colonel Rivas, and Department 5 of the army general staff. According to Castro, the targets for death squad killings were recommended by Department 2, Military Intelligence, and Department 3, Operations, to the general staff commander. Castro said he provided monthly briefings on their activities to deputy CIA chief of station in El Salvador Frederic Brugger.
According to Colonel Adolfo Blandon, the armed forces chief of staff, "six or seven" US military advisers specializing in intelligence and psychological warfare worked at the general staff headquarters. The death squad bureaucracy was run out of the Armed Forces Security Council, headed by top military leaders including, among others, Colonel Blandon, Defense Minister General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, Vice-Minister of Defense General Flores Lima, Air Force chief Jose Rafael Bustillo, Treasury Police chief Colonel Nicolas Carranza, and National Police director Colonel Carlos Reynaldo Lopez Nuila.
In January 1986, the Reagan Administration began an unrestricted $5 million program to train and equip the Salvadoran Treasury Police, National Guard and National Police, who were behind much of the death squad killing, torturing, and "disappearing" in the country. One U.S. military adviser was assigned to each of the three security forces. Other aid included trucks and police cars, car and hand held radios and other police equipment. In 1985, a Democratic congressional aide said the administration had already been providing a training program to the security forces prior to the ban being lifted. Moreover, three of the first sixteen officers being trained were alleged death squad members from the National Guard, said to have killed thousands of people. A study of U.S. assistance to Latin American security forces by Latin Americanist Martha K. Huggins claimed that "The more foreign police aid given by the U.S., the more brutal and less democratic the police institutions and their governments become." Another study by Human Rights Watch's Michael Klare and Cynthia Arnson found a similar correlation, in that, "US firms and agencies are providing guns, equipment, training, and technical support to the police and paramilitary forces most directly involved in the torture, assassination, and abuse of civilian dissidents."
The CIA was reported to have routinely supplied the security forces—the National Guard, National Police, Treasury Police—and the general staff with electronic, photographic, and personal surveillance of suspected dissidents who were later assassinated by death squads; and trained Salvadoran intelligence operatives in the use of investigative techniques which included, according to a former Treasury Police agent, "instruction in methods of physical and psychological torture:"
You learn how to torture, how to cut the balls off a person when he's still alive. You learn how to give electric shocks, shocks to the brain, shocks to the stomach. In general, you will kill the prisoners because there's an assumption they shouldn't live. If we pass them to the judge, they'll go free and we'll maybe have to pick them up again. If there's lots of pressure—like from Amnesty International or some foreign countries—then we might pass them on to a judge, but if there's no pressure, then they're dead. When it's over, you just throw him in the alleys with a sign saying Mano Blanco, ESA (Secret Anticommunist Army), or Maximiliano Hernandez Brigade [three names commonly used by Salvadoran Death Squads].
— --Rene Hurtado, former Treasury Police agent, 1984
Colonel Nicolas Carranza, the head of the Treasury Police was a CIA operative from 1978 to late 1984. According to Carranza, U.S. intelligence agencies routinely supplied the security forces with political surveillance reports.
A U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into U.S. ties to death squads claimed that Carranza was not on the CIA payroll and that there was no credible evidence indicating he was involved in death squad activities, so therefore, the U.S. government could not be implicated in clandestine terrorism. The Christian Science Monitor concluded that the Senate report "does not pretend to be the final word on the subject." In a 2005 interview with Allan Nairn, one of the journalists who first reported US collaboration with death squads said he met with the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after his expose was published. The committee staff questioned him on what he knew about the U.S. creating and directing the death squads. "Now this was a bit curious," he said. "They were the ones, who had security clearance, who had access to the CIA and Pentagon files. They were the ones who worked with them, indeed funded them, but they were asking me, I think in part maybe to try to find out how much I knew. What I knew is what I printed in the magazine." Nairn said they told him there were two classified copies of the Senate report. One copy was stored in a room on Capital Hill which only the Senate Intelligence Committee staff had access to and another was kept at CIA headquarters. The public report released by the committee "said nothing." Some of the Senators told him that the classified report confirms that the U.S. organized the death squads and also that U.S. officials had participated in questioning prisoners as they were being tortured. Nairn contends that the Senate Intelligence Committee should release their classified report.
U.S. intelligence sharing with death squads was again reported in 1988. A U.S. official serving in El Salvador said, referring to the death squad killings, "The CIA didn't mind what was going on so long as they were killing Communists." Another CIA operative, General Jose Alberto "Chele" Medrano, the founder of ORDEN and ANSESAL, said to be "the father of the death squads, the chief assassin of them all" by Jose Napoleon Duarte, explained their definition of a Communist. "You discover the Communist by the way he talks," Medrano said. "Generally, he speaks against Yankee imperialism, he speaks against the oligarchy, he speaks against military men. We can spot them easily." A Carter Embassy spokesman cautioned those who would disrupt these stabilizing practices: "If you pursue the squads it is going to cut so far back into the fabric of Salvadorean society you may face the destabilisation of the society."
The U.S. Army Project X training program instructed allied Latin American armed forces to suppress dissent and assassinate political opponents. The Project X manuals were "in fact a guide for the conduct of clandestine operations" against political adversaries calling for social reform. Some of the material used until 1991 included manuals on "Agent Handling" and "Counterintelligence," which "provided training regarding the use of sodiopentathol [truth serum] compound in interrogation, abduction of adversary family members to influence the adversary, prioritization of adversary personalities for abduction, exile, physical beatings and execution." The manual suggests the creation of inventories of families and their assets to keep tabs on the population. One of the lessons described "a general introduction to censorship to include reference to Armed Forces Censorship...and National Censorship." Students are warned of the dangers of the electoral process. Guerrillas, "can resort to subversion of the government by means of elections," it said. "Insurgent leaders participate in political contests as candidates for government office." Peaceful democratic activity is equated with terrorists. "It is important to note that many terrorists are very well trained in subversion of the democratic process and use the system to advance their causes," the manual said. "This manipulation ends with the destruction of the democratic system. Discontent that can become political violence can have as its cause political, social, and economic activities of terrorists operating within the democratic system," it adds. The manual describes the director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center, Tom Hayden, formerly a California state senator, as "one of the masters of terrorist planning." The CIA manual on "Handling of Sources," states that, "the CI [Counterintelligence] agent must consider all the organizations as possible guerrilla sympathizers." Counterintelligence agents are instructed on targets for "neutralizing", which was a euphemism for execution of, "political leaders, and members of the infrastructure." The targets to be "neutralized" are what the manual describes as "front groups" for the guerrillas, such as "paramilitary groups, labor unions, and dissident groups." Citizens were put on "'black, gray or white lists' for the purpose of identifying and prioritizing adversary targets."
Project X was reportedly based on the CIA's Phoenix program in South Vietnam, an assassination program that targeted suspected Vietcong in South Vietnam. The Phoenix doctrine was transmitted to the armed forces of 11 South and Central American countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, among others. The manuals were distributed through the Army’s Foreign Officer Course, Special Forces Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) and the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), a training center for Latin American armed forces, based in Fort Benning Georgia. The school's curriculum placed great weight on ideological conditioning and "steeped young Latin American officers in the early-1950-era anti-Communist dogma that subversive infiltrators could be anywhere." In 1992, all Project X material was ordered destroyed by the Department of Defense (DOD).
Major Joseph Blair taught at the SOA and was a high-ranking officer in the CIA-led Phoenix program in Vietnam. Blair cites the manuals that were ordered destroyed by the DOD in 1992:
I sat next to Major Victor Tise who created and taught the entire course, which included seven torture manuals and 382 hours of instruction. He taught primarily using manuals which we used during the Vietnam War in our intelligence-gathering techniques. The techniques included murder, assassination, torture, extortion, false imprisonment. The doctrine that was taught was that...if there's someone you don't want, you kill them. If you can't get the information you want, if you can't get that person to shut up or to stop what they're doing you simply assassinate them, and you assassinate them with one of your death squads.
An official set of School of the Americas talking points in 1999 boasts that, "Liberation Theology...was defeated with the assistance of the U.S. Army." Lawrence Korb, Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1981–85, acknowledged, "We did back the guys who went after the bad guys. And [we] defined 'bad guys' pretty broadly." Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), former editor of the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal, argues that U.S. covert action in Central America was "tremendously successful" and that "everyone agrees" it is the model to follow. Eliot Cohen, director of the Strategic Studies Program at Johns Hopkins, maintains that, "We did counterinsurgency very well in Salvador." Andrew Bacevich, a former Army colonel and now a professor at Boston University, observes that, "In the institutional memory of the military, it [El Salvador] is viewed as a success. That's the place we got counterinsurgency right." Benjamin Schwarz, editor of the Atlantic monthly, and former counterinsurgency/counterterror strategist at the RAND Corporation, also holds the view that U.S. policy in El Salvador was a success, while concluding that "preventing a guerrilla victory -- was based on 40,000 political murders."
What we are watching is a four-phased [Soviet] operation of which phase one has already been completed — the seizure of Nicaragua, next is El Salvador, to be followed by Honduras and Guatemala. It's clear and explicit. I wouldn't call it necessarily a domino theory. I would call it a priority target list — a hit list, if you will — for the ultimate takeover of Central America.
In 1980, Cuba and Nicaragua allegedly helped unify the Salvadoran rebel groups and gave them a base in Nicaraguan territory. The Soviet bloc allegedly supplied enough weapons to arm several battalions. Also in 1981, the governments of Mexico and France recognized the FMLN as a "representative political force" in El Salvador. In 1983, it was reported that an FMLN broadcast boasted of Cuban and Nicaraguan backing and an FMLN commander stated that the war was directed by Cuba and that nearly all of his weapons came from Nicaragua. In 1985, the Sandinistas reportedly offered to stop military aid to forces in El Salvador in return for an end to the Contra insurgency.
In 1986, the International Court of Justice ruled that there was no credible evidence proving the Reagan administration's allegations of Nicaraguan arms flow to the FMLN, despite U.S. surveillance of the country being a "high priority". The New York Times reported a similar conclusion in 1988.
On Feb. 24, 1981, the State Department published a report entitled "Communist Interference in El Salvador" which they claimed was based on 19 captured guerrilla documents. The State Department's White Paper purported to provide evidence demonstrating that the Soviet Union acting through Cuba took over the Salvadoran rebellion and was carrying out a covert operation to install a puppet government.
The Wall Street Journal interviewed the chief author of the white paper, John D. Glassman, who admitted that parts of it were possibly "misleading" and "over-embellished." The Journal discovered that several key documents attributed to guerrilla leaders were obvious forgeries and that it's unknown who wrote them. Statistics of armaments shipments to the guerrillas were extrapolated from the documents, and "in questionable ways." Much of the white paper's information couldn't be found in the captured documents. The Journal concluded that "a close reading of the white paper indicates...that its authors probably were making a determined effort to create a 'selling' document, no matter how slim the background material."
The Washington Post investigation found that many of the documents refuted the white paper's contention of Soviet-Cuban arms supply to the guerrillas. Several reports indicated the guerrillas were short of weapons and were desperately looking for ways to arm themselves. In one of the documents, a U.S. government official noted that the rebels had only 626 weapons for more than 9000 men. The administration omitted this document from the collection released to the press with the white paper. Under the headline, "White Paper or Blank Paper?," the Los Angeles Times said the documents did not show a Soviet-Cuban master plan to take over America's bakyard. A senior Carter administration official who had access to all the intelligence traffic said the FMLN got most of their weapons on the international black market, mostly from Miami Florida.
"The three most important guerrilla groups in El Salvador all have anti-Soviet origins [and harbor] suspicions of the Soviet Union— and even of Cuba," observes Robert Leiken, a scholar of the Latin American left. According to the State Department commissioned Jacobsen Report on "Soviet Attitudes Towards Aid to and Contacts with Central American Revolutionaries": "The FMLN's 1983 choice of Villalobos as over-all leader was telling. Villalobos' past relations with Soviet allies have been bitter and stormy. He epitomizes the 'ultra-leftist' problem that Moscow identifies as the single most serious impediment to greater Soviet influence." Professor Carl Jacobsen, the author of the report, also reviewed the administrations white paper for 1985, observing that it "embodies and epitomizes all the problems that plagued its precursors." Jacobsen informed the Congressional subcommittee that the rebels were getting all of their weapons from the Salvadoran military. On the issue of arms to the Salvadoran rebels from Nicaragua, the report concluded, "(U.S.) intelligence officials claim that they can 'hear a toilet flush in Managua,' yet they have not been able or free to produce a captured van or a downed airplane (loaded with arms)."
In October 1983 CBS's Gary Shepard interviewed FMLN guerrillas on a highway and observed that they were armed with mostly American-made weapons taken from government forces and that "there was no evidence of aid from the Communist bloc." One guerrilla boasted, "President Reagan, by sending military aid to the Salvadoran army, is in effect supplying the rebel side as well — and he said he hopes the aid will continue." Charles Clements, an American doctor who lived and worked in one of the FMLN zones, said that besides one rusty Chinese RPG II grenade launcher, he only saw the guerrillas armed with Western made weapons. Raul Hercules, one of the Christian leaders of the guerrillas was insulted by the claim that the rebellion was not a legitimate homegrown revolution: "This is an authentic revolution, as yours was. We know what we're fighting for. You norteamericanos will not control our country, and neither will the Soviets. If we must fight to victory, we will. It is only a matter of time."
"It may have been the most intense national security information campaign since President Kennedy went public with graphic documentation of the Cuban missile threat 20 years ago," Time Magazine observes. "The purpose of the blitz was to convince skeptics of the correctness of the Administration's approach to the critical problems of El Salvador and its neighbors — namely, that the struggles in Central America are not simply indigenous revolts but rather are crucial battlegrounds in a broad East-West confrontation. Their case is as yet unproven, and indeed — by the very nature of these conflicts — may never be."
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly asserted that the most difficult psychological operations would not be in Central America. "I think the most critical special operations mission we have today is to persuade the American public that the Communists are out to get us," he declared at the 1983 National Defense University conference. "The task is mind-boggling. If we win the war of ideas, we will win everything else."
Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, in his 1987 report to Congress, renewed the call for low intensity warfare, warning of those in the Third World "who seek to undermine our security by persistently nibbling away at our interests through these shadow wars carried out by guerrillas, assassins, terrorists, and subversives in the hope that they have found a weak point in our defenses."
General Maxwell Taylor, the fifth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained that the purpose of U.S. low intensity warfare was to sustain United States control over much of the world's resources against the efforts of the "have-nots" who are attempting to overturn the established political and economic order.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who headed the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America said that U.S. covert action was needed in Central America to maintain the credibility of the United States in other parts of the world with growing civil unrest. "A lot will depend on how Central America comes out," he said in an interview in Public Opinion magazine. "If we cannot manage Central America it will be impossible to convince threatened nations in the Persian Gulf and in other places that we know how to manage the global equilibrium," Kissinger said. "We will face a series of upheavals that will absorb so much of our energies that we will be deflected from our previous policies. I am sympathetic to covert operations if we can still conduct them the way their name implies. But if covert operations have to be justified in a public debate, they stop being covert and we will wind up losing public support."
Similarly, in Congressional testimony in 1985, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig said, "If we fail to deal with these problems today in El Salvador, we may find them developing in areas which are less ambiguous and far more dangerous." "The escalating setbacks to our interests abroad," Haig proclaimed when the Reagan administration took office in 1981; "and the so-called wars of national liberation, are putting in jeopardy our ability to influence world events."
In April 1983, President Reagan said that if the Salvadoran government was overthrown by an internal revolt, other governments in Central America would fall too. "That night, the sound of collapsing dominos was heard throughout the [news] networks," said New York Times media critic, John Corry. U.S. foreign policy analysts at the RAND Corporation noted the need for covert action in Central America as a means of ensuring continued U.S. access to vital raw materials, primarily oil and natural gas in Venezuela and Mexico. Michael Novak, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights warned, "Liberation Theology" could prevail if the U.S. did not intervene.
"There was an impression that the revolutionary left was on a roll in Central America," Boston Globe Editor Randolph Ryan observes. "The administration correctly saw that infectious spirit as a "virus" that had to be stopped."
We understand and sympathize with the aspirations of the developing countries. However, we also have an enormous stake in the continuing smooth functioning of the international economic system. We are the world's largest exporter and importer of both raw materials and manufactured goods, the largest overseas investor, and the largest international debtor as well as the largest creditor. Major changes in the system can thus have important implications for our own welfare.
In the Central American-Caribbean region, our credibility worldwide is engaged. The triumph of hostile forces...would be read as a sign of U.S. impotence. This country has large stakes in the present conflict in Central America. They include preventing:
- The erosion of our power to influence events worldwide that would flow from the perception that we were unable to influence vital events close to home.
— --Report of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, 1984
Neil Livingstone wrote that "Those in the Congress who cry the loudest for cutting aid to nations like El Salvador are the real patrons of death squads. By denying the Salvadoran government the resources and assistance it needs to fight a "clean war" on the battlefield, Congressional opponents are, for all intents and purposes, mandating that those frustrated by the government's inability to win a decisive victory by means of conventional military power will increasingly resort to a "dirty war" in the cities and countryside". The US increased aid as atrocities declined. The UN Truth Commission received direct complaints of almost 2,600 victims of serious violence occurring in 1980. It received direct complaints of just over 140 victims of serious violence occurring in 1985.
Groups seeking investigation or retribution for actions during the war have sought the involvement of other foreign courts. In 2008 the Spanish Association for Human Rights and a California organization called the Center for Justice and Accountability jointly filed a lawsuit in Spain against former President Cristiani and former defense minister Larios in the matter of the 1989 slaying of several Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. The lawsuit accused Cristiani of a cover-up of the killings and Larios of participating in the meeting where the order to kill them was given; the groups asked the Spanish court to intervene on the principle of universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity.
Long after the war, in a U.S. Federal Court, in the case of Ford vs. García the families of the murdered Maryknoll nuns sued the two Salvadoran generals believed responsible for the killings, but lost; the jury found Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, ex-National Guard Leader and Duarte's defense minister, and Gen. José Guillermo Garcia—defense minister from 1979 to 1984, not responsible for the killings; the families appealed and lost, and, in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their final appeal. A second case, against the same generals, succeeded in the same Federal Court; the three plaintiffs in Romagoza vs. García won a judgment exceeding US$54 million dollars compensation for having been tortured by the military during El Salvador's Civil War.
The day after losing a court appeal in October, 2009, the two generals were put into deportation proceedings by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), at the urging of U.S. Senators Richard Durbin (Democrat) and Tom Coburn (Republican), according to the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA). Those deportation proceedings as of May, 2010 have been stalled, however; one of the plaintiffs in the case believes the U.S. CIA/DOD — protecting its "assets" — has stymied the Obama Justice Department, for now.
The Spanish judge who issued indictments and arrest warrants for 20 former members of the Salvadoran military, charged with murder, Crimes Against Humanity and Terrorism requested that US agencies declassify documents related to the killings of the Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter but were denied access. In his report, Judge Velasco writes:
"The agencies in charge of making the information public have identified 3,000 other documents that remain secret and are not available; the reasoning given is that privacy is needed to protect sources and methods. Many of the documents, from the CIA and the Defense Department, are not available…"
|Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (July 2012)|