Monday, April 25, 2016

Will US ever acknowledge its role in past human rights violations in El Salvador?

On March 24 in Argentina, US president Barack Obama said to the Argentine people that he regretted the slowness of the US on human rights during the 1970's during the "Dirty War" in Argentina.   During that dark time, Argentina's military was responsible for abducting, torturing, and killing tens of thousands of suspected opponents.

On April 15, Raymond Bonner wrote in The Nation that it is time the US did the same for its involvement in El Salvador's civil war and the atrocities committed by the right wing government with US backing.  He writes:

In Argentina, the security forces killed some 30,000 civilians. In El Salvador, more than 75,000 lost their lives during the civil war, which lasted from 1980 until the 1992 peace agreement. The guerrillas committed atrocities, but the United Nations Truth Commission, established as part of the accord, found that more than 85 percent of the killings, kidnappings, and torture had been the work of government forces, which included paramilitaries, death squads, and army units trained by the United States. 
The United States went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador. The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.
Obama did visit El Salvador in 2011.   Despite a symbolic visit to the tomb of Oscar Romero, there was no acknowledgment of the part the US played in El Salvador's tragic history.

Bonner goes on to remind his readers of some of the actions of Reagan administration officials during those years including the cozy relationship of US officials with Roberto D'Aubuisson, author of the assassination of Oscar Romero, whitewashing the murders of four US churchwomen by Salvadoran soldiers, and denial of the El Mozote massacre.   Bonner knows the El Mozote story well since he was one of two US reporters who broke the story of the massacre and was then vigorously attacked by his own government for being a dupe of the guerrillas.

In Argentina, Obama announced the release of formerly classified documents about the US role in Argentina.    The same action is needed to declassify additional documents from the time of El Salvador's civil war.  As an example, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, filed suit at the end of last year against the CIA seeking release of documents related to the 1981 Santa Cruz massacre in El Salvador.

Equally needed is for El Salvador's military to open its archives for review.   Despite orders from the InterAmerican Court on Human Rights and statements from Mauricio Funes when he was president, the Salvadoran military has kept its records away from investigators.   The historical record of individual and corporate responsibility for human rights abuses in El Salvador will only be complete when both the US and the Salvadoran military fully release their records.

5 comments:

Greg said...


Read Ray Bonner's article.

Yes, Ray, you got it right (along with several of your peers) and certainly you are owed the opportunity to remind your detractors of this today.

However, I'd offer the following for Ray and all of us where human rights violations in ES are concerned (then and sadly now).

"Will Cuba ever acknowledge its role in past human rights violations in El Salvador?"

"Will Nicaragua ever acknowledge its role in past human rights violations in El Salvador?"

"Will the FMLN leadership ever acknowledge its role in past human rights violations in El Salvador?"

"Will the Salvadoran Military ever acknowledge its role in past human rights violations in El Salvador?"

And so on.

When the government of El Salvador, dominated by ARENA and the FMLN, agrees to do away with the General Amnesty they so eagerly agreed to as part of the UN brokered Peace Accord, and then - given the state of corruption within the government today and its inability to investigate itself, much less alleged war criminals - releases as a start its own documents, records, and additional findings such as the UN reports - that would signal a sincere beginning of the process.

Otherwise Ray Bonner can write all the postmortems he wants and decry the US for its clearly less than stellar role in this area during the course of the war - but with little to no good effect.

El Salvador's current state of human rights violations due to narco-terrorism is staggering and set to exceed on a daily basis anything the civil war brought about in its ten years. Genocide, murder, ethnic cleansing, and hyper violent religion based slaughter in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Iran, SE and SW Asia, to name a few "hot spots" overshadow the same crimes of yesteryear in El Salvador, Argentina, Chili, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

"We" can't keep up much less do much about today's butchers, much less the same ilk of 1980s El Salvador.

Finally, the paradox of Salvadorans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and others literally streaming to the US for political/social/economic safety and freedom cannot be underscored or overlooked.

Perhaps the ten-penny tyrants, "presidents for life", revolutionary-turned-rich politicians and "iron fist" military officer fraternities should begin apologizing first for their betrayals and profit/exploitation of the every day Central and South American?

I look forward to Mr. Bonner writing about that when and if it ever happens.

Lawrence M. Ladutke said...

See http://www.wola.org/commentary/president_obama_and_the_disappeared

Marlon said...

Would you happen to know if there are any Spanish translations of the article available?
I would love to show my parents this kind of stuff. Thanks!

joodsy said...

Thank you so much for writing this! I am a teacher in the US in one of the communities with the highest concentration of Salvadorans outside of ES. My kids were born after the end of the war, but know little about what their families survived. I explain to my students the ripple that the political history between our countries has on their current situation. I adore my kids and it breaks my heart and give me shame knowing that the US government turned its back to the Salvadoran people, willingly ignoring the human rights violations.

joodsy said...

Thank you so much for writing this! I am a teacher in the US in one of the communities with the highest concentration of Salvadorans outside of ES. My kids were born after the end of the war, but know little about what their families survived. I explain to my students the ripple that the political history between our countries has on their current situation. I adore my kids and it breaks my heart and give me shame knowing that the US government turned its back to the Salvadoran people, willingly ignoring the human rights violations.