Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- unable to escape the past

The ghosts of El Salvador's twelve year civil war continue to surface in the news from El Salvador. First there was the story of Will Salgado, mayor of the city of San Miguel. On January 29, the Washington Post ran a cover story on the aftermath of the civil war which started with these attention getting sentences:

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.

The skulls were taken from corpses of the El Mozote massacre victims in Morazan province which took place in December 1981. Salgado gave an interview to the periodical El Faro, in which he denies ever making such statements, but the Washington Post reporter is sticking to the story.

Blogger Jjmar has no doubt that Salgado made the statements in question, and wonders what that says[ES] for his country that such a man can be a popular mayor of a major city and is being considered as a presidential candidate in 2009. Ixquic looks at Salgado and sees a politician with populist appeal[ES], a "Robin Hood," who has sold himself to the electorate and the people have bought his sales job. It doesn't seem to matter whether the news about him is good or bad.

Tepezcuintly wants persons like Will Salgado, and the military leaders from the war, not to be giving interviews[ES] to the press, but to be assisting in bringing out information about the whereabouts of thousands of people still missing after the war. The plight of persons still missing was the subject of a visit to El Salvador by envoys from the United Nations on February 5. They are part of a UN working group which specializes in looking at forced disappearances in nations in conflict.

The mastermind of many disappearances and death squad killings during El Salvador's 12 year conflict between guerrilla forces and the government was former Major Roberto D'Aubuisson. That was the conclusion of a UN Truth Commission report in 1993. Fourteen years later, the ruling ARENA party in El Salvador planned to introduce a measure in the legislature to name D'Aubuisson a "Son of Highest Merit" of the nation. Salvadoran bloggers, along with NGO's and the Human Rights office of the Catholic church in El Salvador rallied to protest the resolution.
Hunnapuh's reaction was typical:

Bueno amigos, tal parece los señores de ARENA no desean que este sea el año de la paz, sino que sea el año de la verguenza, del asco, de la infamia.

Good friends, it appears that the gentlemen of ARENA [the ruling party] do not desire that this will be the year of peace [the government's slogan for 2007], but that it will be the year of shame, of disgust, of infamy.


Protesters converged on the National Assembly on the morning the resolution was to be considered. Many of the protesters were holding pictures of assassinated archbishop Oscar Romero, whose killing had been ordered by D'Aubuisson. (Romero's progress towards sainthood is tracked on the Positio Super Martyrio blog). Confronted with these protests, the measure was withdrawn rather than facing a vote.

Finally, Solava, writes about a different kind of criminal. He describes the cheapening of life[ES] in the overcrowded courts of El Salvador. A reckless driver can be released from criminal charges for running over and killing a child with a payment of $1000 to $1500, and this might be in the form of payments of as little as $5 per month to the family. In the situation where there are some 28,000 cases pending in these courts, the prosecutors and magistrates pressure the families into accepting these settlements, resolving both damage claims and criminal liability.

Originally posted on Global Voices.

No comments: