Friday, October 31, 2014

An apology for an offense against truth

I have called him before the "dean of Salvadoran bloggers."   For more than eight years, Ernesto Rivas Gallont has posted multiple times per day on his blog, Conversations with Neto Rivas.   He offers insights and perspectives on news and politics in El Salvador, often rooted in his own acquaintance with the players involved.

But before he was a blogger, one of the roles Ernesto Rivas filled was the ambassador to the United States from El Salvador during much of El Salvador's civil war.   After his arrival in Washington in March 1981, he often was called upon to act as an apologist for the actions of the country's army, actions which often included massacres and atrocities.  

On orders of his superiors back in El Salvador, then ambassador Rivas denied his government's involvement in the massacre which occurred in December 1981 at El Mozote.   We now know that Salvadoran army troops from the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion killed more than 900 defenseless men, women, children and the elderly.

Today, October 31, on his blog, Ernesto Rivas apologized for following orders and for denying the existence of the massacre:
Suspecting that the real story [of the El Mozote massacre] was different than the denial, I should have rebelled and denounced what really happened. I did not, and today I apologize for it... 
This was not the only atrocity committed by the Salvadoran Army that was officially denied. This was a routine that prevailed, passing from the murder of four American nuns in 1980, to the slaughter of the Jesuit priests, their maid and her daughter in 1989. 
The wounds of war are difficult to heal. Therefore, to apologize helps, although on a small scale, to erase memories, the remembrance of which only exacerbates political passions. Therefore, I apologize for what I admit was a serious offense.
This was an honorable act.  It would be a wonderful thing if all segments of society, from the left and the right, began to recognize that only by facing the truth directly, and naming it out loud, can a process of true reconciliation begin.  

4 comments:

Carlos X said...

I agree that the apology and admission is an honorable action and I disagree with former Pres. Funes, who has been quoted in the press as saying Rivas Gallont should be prosecuted for denying the truth. It is troubling that Mr. Funes had five years to try to repeal the 1993 Amnesty Law, or to push for prosecutions of such cases, especially the most notorious ones. Yet, he limited himself largely to symbolic actions, such as apologizing on behalf of the state. Ironically, it was these actions by Mr. Funes that showed how important these gestures can be.

Greg said...

When the FMLN leadership active and responsible during the war for those war crimes committed by FMLN forces, which are many and notable, apologize for their actions and assume responsibility as former field commanders for the actions of their forces...then there will be significant traction.

Until then don't expect to see the 1993 Amnesty Law revised to any degree. There's blood on everyone's hands and All Parties now in power know it.

Carlos X said...

I agree with Greg that the FMLN needs to own up to its own sins. Now that a former guerrilla is president is a perfect opportunity for that sort of gesture.

Tom said...

Apologies are nice, but they must come with truth telling if there is to be reconciliation.