Monday, December 12, 2011

El Mozote -- 30th anniversary commemoration


Ninth in a series

This weekend, people from throughout El Salvador and the world gathered in a remote location in northeastern El Salvador to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the El Mozote massacre.  It was a time to remember and a time for renewed commitment to the quest for justice for the victims.  This year, the commemoration commenced on Saturday, December 10, which is the 63rd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

Anniversaries bring infrastructure improvements to El Mozote. There was fresh asphalt pavement on the last few hundred yards into the village. A grader smoothed a hill side to make parking spaces for cars, just as the cars started to pull in.

A raised stage had been raised close to the little church on the main plaza in El Mozote. The whole plaza was filled with hundreds of people. Vendors sold artisan items, T-shirts, and pupusas.

As we arrived, a children's chorus was beginning to sing under the direction of Sister Anne Griffin. More than one of the subsequent speakers commented on the hope embodies by those voices singing on the spot where hundreds of children were massacred.  Children read the names and ages of child victims.

The event was attended for the first time by a high level official of the current Salvadoran government. Hugo Martinez, El Salvador's foreign minister. Others present included the ambassadors of Venezuela and Colombia, representatives of the United Nations, Oscar Luna, El Salvador's Human Rights Ombudsman, and others. But the most important attendees were the family members of the victims of El Mozote.



The headlines this event generated came from the remarks of Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez. After commenting that prior Salvadoran governments had treated the immense suffering of El Mozote was a matter of indifference, he said
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate on behalf of the government of El Salvador our request for forgiveness to the thousands of innocent victims, but especially the victims of the massacre at El Mozote.
Martinez said that the government under Mauricio Funes was accepting the responsibility for the crimes committed and that it was in solidarity with the victims of El Mozote and the surrounding communities.

Later in the morning, Oscar Luna, El Salvador's human rights ombudsman, made his presentation. Starting with the events of 30 years ago, he traced the search for justice up to the present day proceedings in front of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. He left no doubt of his opinion that what has been done so far has been insufficient. He called for a repeal of the Amnesty Law, a judicial investigation of those responsible for the command and control of the massacre, and concrete reparations including financial, medical, psycho-social and legal assistance to the families of the victims.



The voices of the victims were also heard this day as those who had lost family members presented their testimony.  Other parts of the commemoration included a Catholic mass, a music concert, dance presentations, and more.



This weekend also saw the dedication of a new monument to the innocent victims of the massacre. The new monument is located about 1 km down the road past El Mozote. Not completely finished, it rises dramatically on a hillside with dramatic views. On top, as a crown, are the silhouettes of the El Mozote family from the monument in the village square. Statutes of prophets of non-violence encircle the monument including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa.    A figure of Jesus Christ includes the phrase "my peace I give you, my peace I leave with you."

You can see pictures I took of the new monument and the anniversary activities at this link.

5 comments:

Greg said...

Excellent series and thank you for ensuring its publication.

Of many, many unfortunate things perhaps the most is that, at this date, despite even the current calls for additional judicial attentions, none should be expected.

All in the government, ALL, know that a cornerstone of the 1992 Peace Accord ensured those on BOTH sides of the conflict would receive amnesty for alleged war crimes.

El Mozote represents the most heinous of such crimes. But the FLMN and its 5 guerrilla armed forces are likewise responsible for equally horrific events such as the murder of unarmed ESAF soldiers at Punte Oro, the bed by bed murders of wounded and injured ESAF soldiers at El Paraiso, the assassination of LT Commander Albert Schaufelberger in San Salvador, the murder of the U.S. Marines in the Zona Rosa, and numerous murders of intimidation by the FMLN of Salvadoran innocents to include those brutalized during the early free elections of the 1980s.

All have blood on their hands and the General Amnesty was meant, selfishly, to cover rather than wash that blood away.

What do we call it when the assassins accuse the assassin?

When we grieve for those at El Mozote we would do well to grieve for all of those whom both sides murdered, maimed, and tortured for no other reason that the pursuit of political power by any means.

The mirror of self-recognition is often unkind.

Yael said...

Thank you, Tim, for your excellent series on El Mozote... you do the English-speaking community a service by offering accessible, well-written information about the impact of this heinous crime 30 years later, and the efforts to heal and recover.

ixa said...

@ Greg, Are You serious? FMLN attacks on soldiers? How many babies did they bayonet?> Zona Rosa Murder? Are a few American Intel peeps more important than 1, 000 Campesinos? Ah ya I forgot, they were communists. Te vale verga verdad?
you need to know though that the peace accords were signed before the amnesty law. January 92 Chapultupeq, MEx, then when Forensics led by Clyde Snow (Argentinian Team) made the findings known in the Fall of 92, ONLY THEN, did Cristiani push through the amnesty law Knowing that the MAJORITY *90% of abuses were committed by army (BIRIS), Atlacatl, BRacamonte, Belloso, PRAL, etc. and (paramilitaries,(See rom Madness to Hope UN Truth Commission. Then for the next 10 years Arena pushes through propaganda the "both sides forgiven:BS Excuse. You also need to know that North Americans lost good men in LIVE combat against the FMLN, Green berets, etc, and we NEVER awarded the purple heart because reagan had it as tagged as LIC, Low intensity Conflict. Read Greg Walker's @ the Hurricane's eye and be enlightened. El Salvador would have healed if it would have taken the path of South Africa in facing its past. Unfortunately the RIGHT, backed by the USA in the 90s did not let that happen. One day...

ixa said...

@ Greg, Are You serious? FMLN attacks on soldiers? How many babies did they bayonet?> Zona Rosa Murder? Are a few American Intel peeps more important than 1, 000 Campesinos? Ah ya I forgot, they were communists. Te vale verga verdad?
you need to know that the peace accords were signed before the amnesty law. January 92 Chapultupeq, MEx, then when Forensics led by Clyde Snow (Argentinian Team) made the findings known in the Fall of 92 in the convent at El Mozote, ONLY THEN, after Cristiani found out, did he push through the amnesty law Knowing that the MAJORITY *90% of abuses were committed by army (BIRIS), Atlacatl, BRacamonte, Belloso, PRAL, etc. and (paramilitaries,(See From Madness to Hope UN Truth Commission. Then for the next 10 years Arena pushes through propaganda -the "both sides forgiven:BS Excuse. You also need to know that North Americans lost good men in LIVE combat against the FMLN, Green berets, etc, and the U.S. NEVER awarded the purple heart because reagan had the war tagged as LIC, Low intensity Conflict. Read Greg Walker's @ the Hurricane's eye and be enlightened. El Salvador would have healed if it would have taken the path of South Africa in facing its past. Unfortunately the RIGHT, backed by the USA in the 90s did not let that happen. One day...it will come out and there will be more than a visit to Romeros tomb to have justicia..

Greg said...

In 1998, the United States Government/Military - after a ten year grass roots campaign led by former U.S. Service members who fought/served in El Salvador - authorized full combat awards and decorations.

These include among others the Purple Hearts, Silver Stars, and two posthumous POW medals for U.S. aviators shot down then executed by their FMLN captors (LTC David Picket, buried at Arlington and SP4 Dawson).

It has been for some time a formal U.S. military campaign.

The No Greater Love Foundation, in May of 1996, dedicated a small monument and plaque along with what is today a fully grown White Oak, in memory of all of those who were killed in the war, Salvadoran or otherwise.

In part the dedication reads:

"El Salvador 1981-1992. Blessed are the peacemakers. In sacred memory of those who died to bring hope and peace."

Representatives from the Salvadoran embassy were in attendance. The memorial was initiated by the Veterans of Special Operations - El Salvador, the grass roots organization that successfully pursued the historical realignment of the war to reflect the Truth of U.S. involvement.

You can Google the historical record on this, both in the general/major media and official military awards/decorations websites. Bradley Graham of the Washington Post did excellent front page story on this event.

It's sad to hear someone, anyone, offer one human life has more value or concern than another.

The Jewish faith offers -

Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a states:

"FOR THIS REASON WAS MAN CREATED ALONE, TO TEACH THEE THAT WHOSOEVER DESTROYS A SINGLE SOUL... SCRIPTURE IMPUTES [GUILT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD DESTROYED A COMPLETE WORLD; AND WHOSOEVER PRESERVES A SINGLE SOUL..., SCRIPTURE ASCRIBES [MERIT] TO HIM AS THOUGH HE HAD PRESERVED A COMPLETE WORLD."

From the Quran -

Quran: 5; 32 -

"For that cause we decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for another manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he saved the life of all mankind..."

The world's religions and sects, for the most part, as well as the world's human rights movements, likewise offer the same thought process.

The General Amnesty in El Salvador was agreed to and has been upheld since by the Salvadoran Government, with members in both high and low places coming from all political parties and voices.

A war crime is a war crime is a war crime, by international law. Be it one or 1000, the numbers do not detract any less from the deed.

Elements of the FMLN committed murders, atrocities, assassinations, and all matter of intimidation throughout the course of the war. They were no less culpable, no less "justified", no less excusable than those carried out by their mirror images on "the other side".

Both sides who could face investigation and indictment are happy to quietly point at the amnesty and shake their blood-stained fingers "No-no, I/we have been abstained from justice".

Such a declaration is not unusual. Amnesty, forgiveness, the laying down of arms and anger, takes on many forms, some of them easier to accept than others.