Monday, December 11, 2006

25th anniversary of El Mozote massacre

Today, December 11, is the 25th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote. This event stands out as one of the worst atrocities of the civil war and was committed by U.S. trained troops of the Salvadoran armed forces. Following the war, the United Nations Truth Commission issued its report with this summary:

"On 10 December 1981, in the village of El Mozote in the Department of Morazan, units of the Atlacatl Battalion detained, without resistance, all the men, women and children who were in the place. The following day, 11 December, after spending the night locked in their homes, they were deliberately and systematically executed in groups. First, the men were tortured and executed, then the women were executed and, lastly, the children, in the place where they had been locked up. The number of victims identified was over 200. The figure is higher if other unidentified victims are taken into account."

The massacre was carried out by soldiers of the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion, yet no one has ever been held responsible for this crime against humanity due to the 1993 amnesty law which followed the civil war. This absence of justice is part of the continuing problems of impunity and lack of reconciliation in the country. For more information about the massacre, read the UN Truth Commission report or Mark Danner's book The Massacre at El Mozote.

Today a silent memorial stands as a memorial to these innocent victims.



Although the massacre at El Mozote, along with the Rio Sumpul massacre, may be two of the most notorious massacres by government forces during the civil war, they may not have been the largest. Last month La Prensa Grafica, ran an article about the deaths of unarmed civilians during the twelve years of the civil war. The article mentions briefly, the El Morazán Massacre on April 14, 1981, in which 150 children, 600 elderly and 700 women were killed. Before that article, I had never heard of this massacre, and have not found any other mention of the massacre. If any other reader has more information, please post it in a comment.

23 comments:

Solavá said...

The account that you quote on El Mozote massacre is outdated and incorrect. It was always known that over 1,000 people were killed, but the process of exhumating bodies from the known burial sites and carrying out the appropriate forensic investigations was painfully slow. I spoke recently with the lawyer who investigated this massacre from the beginning, and he said that there are now over 1,300 victims identified, mostly women, children and elderly, in other words, non-combatants.

Also, the order in which they were killed reflects a specific type of sadism which makes this crime particularly horrendous. Women were made to suffer tremendously, since they were the last to be killed. Men were killed first as women watched. I don't remember any account telling me that they were tortured. Then the adolescent girls were taken away, raped and then killed. Women were grouped together and their children were taken away. Then the children were killed. Rufina Amaya, a survivor, told me that she heard her children screaming and telling her: "Moma, they are killing us!" The women were killed last. Rufina escaped, and her account is well known: she hid behind a bush and crawled away. Most people don't know the actual details of why she was able to escaped. She prayed. She told me that when the military came for them to kill them she stopped cold watching the women, desperate, screaming and begging not to be killed. Then she turned around, kneeled down and prayed a single line: "God, forgive me, or let me live so that I can tell what has happened here". Because she was kneeling down, and because of the confusion, she realized that she was not noticed. She crawled away, just a few steps, and hid behing a bush. She knew that she would be noticed sooner or later, but then something misterious happened. She was surrounded by all kinds of animals, and she began to move with them, among them, unnoticed. Since the entire village was being burned down, the farm animals were released and they walked away from the smoke. That's how she was saved.

I'm saddened and angry to realize that there were other large massacres, unknown to us.

Twenty one years ago, by the way, and I like to remember this anniversary as well, Rufina, the survivor of El Mozote, fell in love again and "made love". She had a daugher she named Marta, who is now a smart and beautiful young woman of 20 who is studying medicine. As Mary prayed when she knew that she was carrying God's child: "World without end".

Anonymous said...

This may be in reference to a massacre claimed by Radio Venceremos during the war in which supposedly 1,000 people or more were murdered in a cave. It later turned out to be bogus, a fabrication of the propaganda war waged by both sides. This is turn caused U.S. authorities to take initial reports of El Masote as bogus, and unfortunately they were wrong. One other point, and probably not a popular one, but when El Mazote is reported it always mentions U.S. trained troops, and some even try to place U.S. advisers at the scene, for which there seems to be no credible evidence. The inference is that at the school of the Americas U.S. advisers taught Salvadoran military people how to massacre villages. History would seem to show that the Salvadoran military solved problems with revolutionaries by slaughtering them long before they received any training at the School of the Americas. Dating back to the 1930´s when communist activists tried to organize the indigenous people, the military government responded viciously by murdering any indigenous person not carrying papers testifying to the fact they were not communists. I´ve talked with older people here who lived through those times and they say there would be bodies all along the road. Indidenous people dropped the clothing of their culture to blend in with the population and stay alive. Solving people problems by killing has a heritage here that goes back way beyond El Mazote and the School of the Americas. My understanding of the purpose for sending officer candidates to the school was to try to upgrade a military that very inept, corrupt and unprofessional. Unless there is evidence of a Massacre 101 class at the school, I would suggest that the seeds of El Mazote were sown long before any Salvadoran soldier ever set foot in the School of the Americas. One of the best articles available I´ve found on the web about the massacre is http://www.markdanner.com/newyorker/120693_The_Massacre.htm and his book is even better. He sticks to the facts and doesn´t seem to have an axe to grind for either side.

El-Visitador said...

"This absence of justice is part of the continuing problems of impunity"

Right.

On.

Dude.

I'm sure when criminals kill about 10 people today, they will be thinking:
"this is in retribution to the FMLN and the Government for decreeing amnesty to each other as a result of the Peace Accords".

HODAD26 said...

i know personally of one asshole green beret that was there, one of the ones throwing the babies in the air and catching them on bayonets
he is a sadistic asshole
he will be dealt with soon, one of North's buddies
he has a home in Salvador,
he also was a big player in the contra drug running mess, out of Ilopongo of course, well I am sure it goes on now, especially with the more USA military based there

we will see after Bush is impeached, and hopefully his whole family brought to trial, soon we pray

i am sure the CIA was behind some of this training, it is their style
true salvo's had it in their makeup to be that way before SOA. Martinez, and what happened in 1847,etc. but the USA just showed them that is was ok to kill innocents
it is 2006, hope big changes are coming folks, in the way of people are tired of military mentality and violence against innocents

Solavá said...

Why do people loose sight of what's important whenever there is a mention of a major crime that took place in a politically charged context? What are these ramblings and these words of hate? Is that what we need, the "Dirty Harrys" of history, avenging the death of the innocents. Please don't come to El Salvador if that's what you want to do here, we don't need you.

What we need is to have in El Salvador is justice, plain and simple. These comes from a set of clear rules for everyone, rules that everyone can follow, these rules we call law but which are constantly undermined by impunity, by a public security force (police) without sufficient tools to investigate, by prosecutors without enough evidence to convict criminals, and by judges too arrogant to accept these new laws.

But people also need democracy, and democracy requires the debate and confrontation of ideas. We don't always need an embrace among political enemies because democracy is the embrace, the guarantee that the rules of justice are followed. Nobody would argue that the impunity of certain crimes against humanity committed by the United States, such as the fire bombing of japanese cities where houses were made of wood (a crime deadlier than the two atomic bombs combined) were a consequence of the lack of reconciliation between the North and the South after the Civil War (Isn't there a republican/democratic divide between the North and the South up to this day?).

We need to stop asking ourselves how can these massacres happen and start asking why do they happen.

Anonymous said...

Again I repeat there seems to to be no credible evidence of U.S. military people on the scene. Mark Danner went to a lot of trouble talking to people who were there and pouring through records, and he could come up with no one who could be proven to be there who would point to U.S. personnel being present. Tim lists his book as a good read about the massacre, and I agree, it´s the best and fairest account I´ve come across.

Solavá said...

NOBODY said that members of the US Army were there. Tim speaks of the US trained Atlacatl Batallion. Now, this is a fact. The Atlacatl Batallion was trained by US military advisors before they carried out the massacre. The training was a highly publicized event, it was covered by international news, I've seen television reports on that (including 60 minutes) and, as a journalist, I actually met and spoke with some of these advisors. After this massacre the training of salvadoran batallions continued.

Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who died recently, Elliot Weinberger and Colin Powell visited El Salvador in 1983 to review the process and later ensured that military assistance continued. This is a fact and, again, was highly reported on TV and press reports in the US.

Some US advisers themselves claim that they participated in some of the war efforts in El Salvador. In fact, one of them died during a battle. They now claim that they deserve "veteran status". This too, is a fact.

So, there you have it. It's history. And I don't have an ax to grind on either side.

Solavá said...

By the way, I was the bilingual journalist that received Mark Danner when he arrived in Morazán. He was looking for Rufina Amaya. Nobody in El Salvador knew who Danner was or what the New Yorker was. I introduced him to Rufina and told her: "Trust him, you can tell him anything. Tell him everything". Danner was unlike any American journalist who came down there at the time. He didn't look like a cowboy. He was a little chubby, very very white, almost pink with the heat. He was humble and shy before Rufina. He didn't speak a word of English, at least I don't remember him speaking Spanish. He had a translator with him, another shy man. But he had the gift to listen, and it was easy to trust him. He did a great job, he made intelligible an almost impossible task.

Anonymous said...

Corrupcion actual
Video

Anonymous said...

Actually a lot of people say that U.S. advisers were there, including one commenter on this thread. Ít´s also a common charge made on leftist web sites that discuss El Mazote. That´s why I pointed out that it was important that Danner could find no one who was present or acquainted with the facts willing to go on record as saying that U.S. soldiers were involved in the massacre. I appreciate the care he took in putting his book together, and he didn´t gloss over any of the terrible things that happened there. Which is why if he had discovered any evidence of U.S. military personnel being personally involved I don´t think he would have hesitated to report it.

El-Visitador said...

Well, given the turns this thread has had, I'll say one thing:

I went to a Jesuit school.

Please no-one blame the Jesuit priests, nor Ignatius, nor Francis Xavier, of any mistakes I have personally made, which are many.

All they are guilty of, is they thaught me to think. All my errors are mine.

gapgirl said...

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam? :-)

Anyways, about this thread,I dont know.Does a coin have two sides?

And so it goes for any story that is tossed.

I can only read on about something that happened in the distant past of a distant land ...I keep my reservation.My opinion does not matter.Actually, I dont have any opinion on this matter.(syntax mine ,pun or no pun.)

I've read some books and watched movies about History and Wars fought and their accompanying atrocities.So what else is new
under the sun.Does Earth have more than one Sun? (Heavens forbid!)

Surely this is not the only Massacre story in the face of this planet.Some things in history
(and ergo definitely all in the Distant Past )are simply beyond anyone's control.

Why bother to remember something sad. ¡Es terrible!

Is there something happy to talk about El Salvador? All this stuff is so depressing .

À vos souhaits!

Chris said...

I just returned from being present at the 25th anniversary of the tragedy at El Mozote. I have been to El Mozote twice before, and as always, this visit was a powerfully moving experience. I spent time with both Santiago, but more so with Claudia Bernardi, one of the members of the forensic team that performed the exhumations, who has now initiated a wonderful School of Art and Open Studio in Perquin. Among the work done are beautiful murals on the new church in El Mozote and the creation of a memorial rose garden on the site of the convento where many of the children were massacred.

While at times it seems like there is no hope, especially when a recent survey says that 9/10 young persons in El Salvador hopes to leave the country, still there are some seeds of hope. Marta, for one, like Solavá says. She has done extremely well in her first year of medical studies. I'd also suggest visiting the Walls of Hope website. I don't believe Claudia has posted an updated report since the anniversary service, but she probably will before too much longer. Alot of other pictures and reports on the website could fill you in more. My wife took over 600 beautiful photos of the anniversary.

http://www.wallsofhope.org/

One of the hopeful things was that the Tutela Legal person (forget her name) gave an address supporting further international investigations into the human rights atrocities. That's a crucial step, if in fact it can occur: because if the human rights investigation can become international, rather than just within the confines of the Salvadorean legal system, it can become theoretically possible to avoid the amnesty given in the 1992 peace accords. This would be a crucial step in achieving some measure of justice. Perhaps it's a longshot to achieve.

During the anniversary, some in the crowd called out to Rufina (I presumed they were former guerillas), asking her if she could identify any of the perpetrators and to not be afraid to identify them. She answered that she had stopped being afraid of anything along time ago and that she hadn't been able to identify particular soliders.

Linda said...

It's ironic that during this anniversary week of the El Mozote Massacre, one of the biggest promoters of funding for death squad supporters, a man who called press reports about the El Mozote Massacre "not credible," is now attempting to choke off public access to information about US policies in the Middle East.

The more things change....

For more on Eliot Abrams's current activities as Deputy National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush, as well as his history in relation to El Salvador, check out:

http://billsrants.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/12/the_return_of_t.html

Anonymous said...

Elliot Abrams is and always was an idiot, and involved with drug running up to his ears, since the contra days hey look who he works for, son of biggest narco business proponents, Barbara and George ever was,
where do you think people the CIA Yalie boys get money for their little coups around the war, suppoerting their daddies military industrial complex companies
if it was not for that huge fool Reagan's years in office, we would be on the moon mining helium 3 and on Mars, and beyond maybe?

and do not be gullible to think that US military were not at these atrocities,El Mozote, Sanpam, etc etc etc
Cambodia, Colombia, as they were in Guatemala and Nicaragua recently
killing innocent beautiful Indigenous people

abolish the militaries and those making the money on same
look at Iraq and Halliburton
ok, enough said, lets move on to the future and the positive
as gap girl suggested
but it is a shame that 90% of youth want to leave ES, they are not stupid and now with ciber cafes and the net, they see the lifestyles, most are in chat rooms, porn sites and My Space inaneness, no wonder they take their parents hard earned cash in USA and go to the malls, saw it, see it if you go to Metro Centro
however, there are still possibilities in ES but the futuire has to be food, food security,and the 12 month long growing cycle and the rich volcanic soil for growing.
NOT sugar,cafe, cotton, time to change folks
look at healing, fruit, vegetables
ORGANIC crops, etc. and of course HEMP
B.A.C.H. Website for more info

Anonymous said...

/shock, "never heard of El Mozote" -Quite scary Tim, since the motto every year at the vigil homenaje is
"Nunca Olvidar"

I was in el Mozote in 94 when the Argentine team sent back the remains for reburial mentioned in Danners book,. Santiago=carlos Consalvi was there as he is every year. At that time, He was working on Museo de la Palabra, I do not know what he has been doing since then.
I've met a few from batallon atlacatl, and belloso, delta over the years.
there were Green berets stationed in San Miguel, and their accounts are listed in a war book about special forces vietnam to desert storm. I forgot the name though..
oh here it is.
http://www.amazon.com/At-Hurricanes-Eye-Greg-Walker/dp/0804109559

Ya good ol Greg Walker came up from Panama to train the Battallon Atlacatl, he is interviewed in the documentary I mention below. He dedicates a whole chapter to Low intensity conflict in El Sal.

And as we all know a few boinas verdes were shot down by ERP in Northern Morazan in 91-92...


the Argentine forensic group has been doing exhumations all over northern Morazan for over the last 10 years.

A good book besides Danners is
The Massacre of El Mozote: Anthropology and human rights by Leigh Binford http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/books/BID999.htm

The best movie out there about the massacre is La fiera Con Todas sus Garras or DENIAL by Alter-Cine Canada-one of the directors, Yvan Patry passed away in 99.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0370454/
http://www.sextans.com/altercine/index2.html


I would hope Gibson does a in your face movie about the massacre. I talked to the subdirector/star of Voces Inocentes, and he mentioned that he had some script on Mozote, and one on MS13, I would hope he does not follow through since Voces seemed quite sold out for having Mexicans play Salvadorans. He may have mentioned that he is working on a RV movie to with carlos Consalvi.

I have had the Denial Fiera esta con todas sus garras, movie for over 12 years and may post it to the net if I ever update my 10 yr old el sal pre-blog lol
http://www.geocities.com/teslsalvador

Also, Tim, if you are in El Salvador, you should post some writings about the wall they erected in Parque Cuscatlan some years ago. My suegro is listed there.

Anonymous said...

/shock, "never heard of El Mozote" -Quite scary Tim, since the motto every year at the vigil homenaje is
"Nunca Olvidar"

I was in el Mozote in 94 when the Argentine team sent back the remains for reburial mentioned in Danners book,. Santiago=carlos Consalvi was there as he is every year. At that time, He was working on Museo de la Palabra, I do not know what he has been doing since then.
I've met a few from batallon atlacatl, and belloso, delta over the years.
there were Green berets stationed in San Miguel, and their accounts are listed in a war book about special forces vietnam to desert storm. I forgot the name though..
oh here it is. At the Hurricanes Eye: By Greg Walker-former GB.
http://tinyurl.com/y96aes

Ya good ol Greg Walker came up from Panama to train the Battallon Atlacatl, he is interviewed in the documentary I mention below. He dedicates a whole chapter to Low intensity conflict in El Sal.

And as we all know a few boinas verdes were shot down by ERP in Northern Morazan in 91-92...
I even met one of the Seals who took out Noriegas Plane in 89, and he described to me eating at a bar with his platoon in La Union and going out on night patrols with the infamous PRAL.Long Distance Reconnaissance Patrol..


the Argentine forensic group has been doing exhumations all over northern Morazan for over the last 10 years.

A good book besides Danners is
The Massacre of El Mozote: Anthropology and human rights by Leigh Binford http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/books/BID999.htm

The best movie out there about the massacre is La fiera Con Todas sus Garras or DENIAL by Alter-Cine Canada-one of the directors, Yvan Patry passed away in 99.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0370454/
http://www.sextans.com/altercine/index2.html


I would hope Gibson does a in your face movie about the massacre. I talked to the subdirector/star of Voces Inocentes, and he mentioned that he had some script on Mozote, and one on MS13, I would hope he does not follow through since Voces seemed quite sold out for having Mexicans play Salvadorans. He may have mentioned that he is working on a RV movie to with carlos Consalvi.

I have had the Denial Fiera esta con todas sus garras, movie for over 12 years and may post it to the net if I ever update my 10 yr old el sal pre-blog lol
http://www.geocities.com/teslsalvador

Also, Tim, if you are in El Salvador, you should post some writings about the wall they erected in Parque Cuscatlan some years ago. My suegro is listed there.

Tim said...

I may have been unclear on my post. Of course I have long been aware of the massacre at El Mozote.

The massacre I had not heard of before was a separate massacrein Morazan province which, according to the La Prensa story, killed another 1400 and would have been equal in magnitude to El Mozote.

Anonymous said...

since 92, the eeaf from argentina has been exhuming in northern Morazan around Torola, etc they have been back 2-3 times since the original 92 discovery of the kids in the convent @ El Mozote.

I have heard about smaller random massacres but one of that size should be shouted from the rooftops.

Right after the EEAF findings and subsequent report in "From Madness to Hope", published by the UN; Cristiani passed the amnesty law that "forgives" war crimes from both sides, even though it was proved that the majority of the HR abuses were from the Gov, army and paramilitary groups. Granted, the fmln did atrocities, but the percentage I believe via the UN report was 5% compared to 95%.

The exhuming of the kids in 92 from the convent in El Mozote directly resulted in Cristiani passing the amnesty law to protect many on the right.

Many in ES are fighting to get that overturned, but since all lines will be followed to the U.S. it probably will not get far..
especially when ES is the only Country in this hemisphere I believe that is over in Iraq via batallon cuscatlan...
that leads to many other issues, such as bush giving the salvy gov INS and TPS breaks,(hey saca u rub my back i rub yours)

Without money coming from without (salvys in the US, etc) keep the country afloat.

sadly,imho, in world affairs,

ES has become the whore and the U.S. the pimp.

but-
the right constantly uses ES as a "prime example of democracy" /lol

Has anyone been downtown to the hulahula lately to see how the dolarization really F#@KT the country over?

It is going to get worse in ES because the US sees ES as a BASTION of POWER against the left that is sweeping the south and central.(nica)

that was a ramble.. whew...

Anonymous said...

Rufina Amaya died unexpectedly today (March 6). What an incredible cross she has borne -- and with what courage, dignity, and faith. I received an email from Claudia Bernardi today with the news. Claudia was with Rufina and her daughter Marta. Rufina is back at her home now, which is thronged with people paying their respects. The funeral will be on Sunday, and Rufina will be buried at the memorial at El Mozote, where her children, husband, and so many other rest. God bless her.

Greg Walker, author said...

Contrary to the information posted here regarding myself - I did not participate in the training of the Atlacatl Battalion, either at Fort Bragg, NC, or in Panama/El Salvador.

I was the Special Forces advisor who reported being shown a guerrilla's skull (at the unit's base in El Salvador) that had been turned into a desk lamp. My report was delivered to the US Embassy in El Salvador at the time through the proper chain of command.

The vast majority of SF advisors serving in El Salvador did likewise as this was part of the mission statement. For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.

As for justice...

In an interview I conducted with former Commadante Gilberto Osorio in San Francisco in 1993, Osorio described the lengthy and well planned assassination of Colonel Monterosa by the PRTC, an assassination carried out in great part due to the war crimes actions of his unit at the time (the Atlacatl) in El Mozote. Portions of my interview with Osorio were published in "Behind the Lines, September/October 1993" as well as in "Fighting Knives Magazine" and my book "At the Hurricane's Eye, 1994".

From the FMLN's view revolutionary justice, in this case, was carried out.

The absurd and fanciful claims made that "green berets" murdered babies in El Mozote or anywhere else, at any other time in that war, are as absurd as they are the products of an ill mind.

At the conclusion of the war as brokered under a UN peace agreement, it was the guerrillas of the FMLN that requested US "Green Berets" remain with Salvadoran military units during the early stages of the accord. This because the guerrillas had learned of our commitment to human rights, and the sometimes dangerous reporting we made to the US embassy regarding thugs like Monterosa.

Greg Walker (Ret.)
United States Special Forces
Author, "At the Hurricane's Eye"
Director, Veterans of Special Operations - El Salvador

Peter Kesel said...

Nice post.I recently came across your blog & reading along.Thanks

kirbyola42 said...

So we are to believe you had no idea what was goinging to happen in El Mozote. Only you and God know the truth. If you train these death squads their victims blood is on your hands.