The Washington Post runs a feature story today written by Manuel Roig-Franzia looking back on El Salvador's 12 year civil war, primarily through interviews with one guerrilla soldier and a government soldier who is currently the mayor of San Miguel:
SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador -- José Wilfredo Salgado says he collected baby skulls as trophies in the 1980s, when he fought as a government soldier in El Salvador's civil war. They worked well as candleholders, he recalls, and better as good-luck charms.
In the most barbaric chapters of a conflict that cost more than 75,000 lives, he enthusiastically embraced the scorched-earth tactics of his army bosses, even massacres of children, the elderly, the sick -- entire villages.
It was all in the name of beating back communism, Salgado, now the mayor of San Miguel, said he remembers being told.
But as El Salvador commemorates the 15th anniversary of the war's end this month, Salgado is haunted by doubts about what he saw, what he did and even why he fought. A 12-year U.S.-backed war that was defined at the time as a battle over communism is now seen by former government soldiers such as Salgado, and by former guerrillas, as less a conflict about ideology and more a battle over poverty and basic human rights.
"We soldiers were tricked -- they told us the threat was communism," Salgado said as bodyguards with pistols tucked into their waistbands hovered nearby at his home, ringed by barbed wire. "But I look back and realize those weren't communists out there that we were fighting -- we were just poor country people killing poor country people." (more)
Salgado, the mayor of San Miguel, has strongly denied collecting the skulls of children massacred at El Mozote as souvenirs, in an interview with El Faro. He claims the Washington Post reporter fabricated many of the quotes in the article.