El Mozote

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Information about El Mozote

Published on February 26, 2008

Author: Lindon

Source: authorstream.com

History of El Salvador & El Mozote Massacre & and some other thoughts as well …:  History of El Salvador & El Mozote Massacre & and some other thoughts as well … HGPS 201 Further Readings on El Mozote:  Further Readings on El Mozote Article by Raymond Bonner published on January 27, 1982 in the New York Times. This first report about the massacre was discredited as false or inflated by deniers of massacre (by US and El Salvadoran officials). @ 10 years later, most of Bronner’s assertions about the perpetrators of the massacre were verified by UN commission and by an international forensic team during excavations in El Mozote. Leigh Binford. The El Mozote Massacre. U of Arizona Press, 1996. Binford is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut. He reconstructs life in this tiny village and how its citizens tried to make ends meet until Dec. 1981 when virtually the whole population was massacred by El Salvadoran military trained by the US. (Very good reading). Mark Danner. The Massacre at El Mozote. Vintage Books, 1994. (Excellent as well). a bit of history...:  a bit of history... The conquistador Pedro de Alvarado (1525) staked Spain’s claim on what today is called “Central America.” Spain developed plantations of cotton, balsam (a healing, aromatic, and medicinal substance from certain trees), and indigo (a natural dye for the color blue). Throughout the 1700s, agriculture boomed while a group of 14 elite European families maintained control of most of the land. The land was farmed by enslaved indigenous people or slaves imported from Africa. (To this day there is a large African population in Eastern Nicaragua). In 1811, a Spanish priest organized a revolt against Spain, but the revolt was quickly suppressed. Central America eventually gained independence in 1821. But, independence did not alter the dynamics of land ownership. In 1823, Anastasio Aquino led another unsuccessful Indian rebellion. Land remained in the hands of the “14 families” but in 1841, the Central American Federation was dissolved and since then we have: El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Land remained in the hands of the “14 families.” Synthetic dyes and coffee:  Synthetic dyes and coffee In the second half of the 19th century, the invention of synthetic dyes undermined the indigo market. A new cash crop had to be found Coffee took main stage in the country’s economy. By the beginning of the 20th century, 95% of El Salvador's income came from coffee exports, but only 2% of the population controlled that wealth. Intermittent efforts by the poor to redress El Salvador's social and economic injustices were met with severe repression. 1929 -- The first popular movement for change followed on the heels of the stock market crash of 1929. Prices plummeted and with that coffee prices. Uprising to establish social justice:  Uprising to establish social justice In January 1932 -- Augustín Farabundo Martí, founder of the Central American Socialist party, led an uprising of peasants and Indians. The military responded by systematically killing anyone who “looked Indian” or who supported the uprising. In all, the military killed 30,000 people Martí was arrested and executed by firing squad; his name is today preserved in the FMLN (Frente Martí Liberación Nacional). During the Civil War (1979-1992) [the US poured some $1 million per day to support the war of the ruling junta and a total of $6 billion] the ruling junta of El Salvador and the US considered FMLN a “terrorist” organization. Today, unless there will be a massive interference from abroad, the FMLN may become the major party in the 2004 elections. Even without being in power, the FMLN is the major force for social reform in El Salvador. 1960s and 1970s:  1960s and 1970s By the 1960s, El Salvador's failing economy and severe overpopulation drove hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans to cross illegally into Honduras seeking work there. During the 1970s the people of El Salvador suffered from increased landlessness, poverty, unemployment, and overpopulation. Political parties became polarized and fought for power largely through coups and electoral fraud. In 1972, the military (under orders from the ruling oligarchy) arrested and exiled the elected president and installed their own candidate in power. After that, guerrilla activity increased, and the government responded by unleashing ‘death squads’ who murdered, tortured, or kidnapped thousands of El Salvador’s poor. National Security State:  National Security State By 1979, El Salvador was a “National Security State.” That means: decisions were made by the ruling oligarchy with the military carrying out the decisions. The people/peasants (95%) live/d in poverty. The is virtually no “middle class” in El Salvador. Most of “middle class” lives in San Salvador. In general, the “middle” class is less affluent than the middle class in the US.) To keep the general population in check, the oligarchy had to train its military to keep the peasants controlled. The leaders of the El Salvadoran military are/were trained in the US—most of them at the SOA. (See article in CenterNews, Vol. 6, NR. 1, “School of the Americas.”) The military were the executors of powers --They were and are not the real forces of power. The “14+families” are still in power Conditions that lead to Civil War --1979-1992:  Conditions that lead to Civil War --1979-1992 In 1979, a junta overthrew yet another president and promised reforms. When these reforms were not met, opposition parties united. The successful revolution in Nicaragua a few months earlier encouraged many poor Salvadorans to believe that armed struggle was a good way to secure reforms. When popular Catholic archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated saying mass on March 24, 1980, his death sparked an armed insurrection. (The UNR film library has the motion picture Romero. The film portrays how Romero, once a supporter of the rich in El Salvador, moved over to the side of the poor in El Salvador. Romero’s position in defense of the poor was considered too “dangerous” by the ruing elite. The military assassinated him. Today, the poor in El Salvador worship Romero as a “saint.” Yet, the conservative Vatican refuses to name Romero a saint. US involvement :  US involvement Guerrillas (FMLN) increased their control of areas in the north and east of El Salvador. They blew up bridges, destroyed power lines, and burned coffee plantations. They wanted to bring down the country's economy. In 1980, the Reagan Administration, unnerved by the success of neighboring Nicaragua's socialist revolution, donated huge amounts of money to the Salvadoran government and the Salvadoran military. (Many of whose leaders were trained in Fort Benning, GA at the School of the Americas (SOA). The El Salvadoran military’s response was decimation of whole villages, causing @ 300,000 citizens to flee the country. @ 75,000 were killed. One of the most atrocious massacres is the one of El Mozote. (Dec. 1981). In 1982, the extreme right-wing party ARENA took power and death squads targeted trade unionists, agrarian reformers, Jesuit clergy, and social workers. … and the war drags on and on:  … and the war drags on and on In spite of heavy military support from the US, the El Salvadoran junta could not win this war against its own people. In April 1990, UN began to oversee negotiations between the Salvadoran government and the FMLN. January 16, 1992, a compromise was signed and a cease-fire took effect. The FMLN became an opposition party, and the government agreed to various reforms, including dismantling of the death squads and replacing them with a national civil police force. Land was to be distributed to citizens. Human rights violations were to be investigated. (But the land is till in the hands of the rich…) During the 12-year war (1979-1992), an estimated 75,000 people were killed. US gave a staggering $6 billion to the Salvadoran government's war effort, despite documented knowledge of atrocities committed by the Salvadoran military. In March 1994, ARENA member Calderón Sol was voted president, amid allegations of electoral fraud. Has anything changed…? Has anything changed…?:  Has anything changed…? Many Salvadorans consider the current situation to be no better than it was before the civil war started in 1979. Unemployment, poverty, disgruntled ex-combatants, and a proliferation of guns in the country has led to high homicide rates - just one of the reasons why approximately 20% of Salvadorans now live abroad. In March 1997, the FMLN won elections in the cities of six of the 14 departments; it now governs a greater percentage of the population than ARENA. Recent election gave the FMLN a majority in San Salvador. But ARENA and others “buy” elections with gifts, promises, and $$ With the two recent earthquakes and its hundreds of aftershocks, the situation in El Salvador again is extremely unstable and precarious. Some are afraid that relief money given to the Salvadoran government for earthquake relief will NOT go to the poor but instead will be used to keep ARENA in power. Recap:  Recap El Salvador is a country with no mass influx of immigrants. Those who came in 19th century and early 20th century came as “specialists” from Europe and thus automatically “belonged” to the privileged class. Consequently, class structure runs along ethnic structure in El Salvador. From among those who rule economically today, hardly anyone is of “new wealth”. The majority of the “14 European families” (actually @ 63 families) come from the time of 2-300 years ago. Only 4 families made their riches after 1950. El Salvador’s oligarchy held and holds the economic power, the power over the military, and for many years also over the church. (Today is church is divided -- official church and church for the poor) The country is ruled by an elite that drives around in luxury limousines, high-priced 4-wheel vehicles with tinted glass. They live in private resorts, beautiful haciendas, and beach houses away from the eyes of the public. 20% of today’s population lives under tarp roofs due to the earthquake on January and February 2001. @ income per week: $60 The role of the military:  The role of the military Traditionally, the ES military was not well organized and had a low degree of professional training. In the late 1970s (Due to attempts by the poor to gain back their land) military increased from @ 10,000 to 40,000. US equipped ES military with modern helicopters, rifles, machine guns. Those ES military that came into El Mozote in December 1981, had learnt “counterinsurgency warfare” (i.e. to terrorize the population) in the US. [In 1996, it US Army had to admit that some of the US Army training manuals contained information on how to torture civilians]. 10 of the 12 Salvadoran military cited in 1993 by the United Nations as having participated in the El Mozote massacre were trained at the US School of the Americas (SOA). Lt. Col. Domingo Monterrosa was one of them ...:  Lt. Col. Domingo Monterrosa was one of them ... … he was the US-trained commander of the Atlacatl Battalion responsible for the massacre in El Mozote in December 1981. He was trained as a parachute ranger at the SOA; he received helicopter training in France; he took political warfare courses in Taiwan. October 1984 -- A surface-to-air rocket shot down his US helicopter. The official announcement was “engine failure”. But the helicopter was shot down by the FMLN. The FMLN shot down the “butcher” of El Mozote. Monterrosa got a “hero’s funeral” on October 24, 1984. I happened to arrive that day in El Salvador ... “Communists” & “subversives”:  “Communists” & “subversives” Everybody who spoke in favor of social justice for the poor was called a “communist” or a “subversive.” As soon as the poor themselves challenged the “status quo” or questioned the prevailing ideology of the rich, they were called “communists” or “subversives” as well. The ES military fought the poor and justified their fight against the poor as their fight against “communists” and “subversives” Even President Jimmy Carter, when, in 1979, cutting off (temporarily) US military aid to ES because of horrible Human Rights violations, was considered a “communist” by the members of the 14 ruling families in El Salvador. El Mozote -- December 1981:  El Mozote -- December 1981 The massacre took place in the jungle of El Salvador, away from the eyes of the public and the media. There is only one survivor. A month after the massacre, a New York Times journalist, Raymond Bonner, was taken by the FMLN to the area to report about the massacre. Most of the corpses had already been buried by the FMLN for fear of epidemics. Some 1000 people were massacred. Bronner’s report of January 27, 1982 in the NYT was considered overblown. In 1993, a forensic team working under the auspices of the UN verified Bronner’s original report. Denial of the massacre:  Denial of the massacre Initially, the US government & the ES government) denied that the massacre had taken place. Bonner was even censured by NYT and was moved to an insignificant desk job within the NYT. Bonner’s stories about El Mozote did not “fit” into the larger political scheme of the US and the Reagan/Bush administration. Reasons for denial: If US had acknowledged the massacre in 1982, there would have been public pressure to discontinue US military support for El Salvador. But military support was considered to be in the “national interest” of the US. “Corporate America” considers ES part of their “national interests”. ES provides cheap labor for: GUESS, Gap, Hanes, Wal-Mart, etc. See: Naomi Klein, No Logo, p. 474. Average wages in China: Wal-Mart pays its workers: $0.13- 0.23 per hour; Ralph Laureen $0.20 per hour; Liz Claiborne $0.25 per hour. Similar wage scales are true for ES. More on US cover-up and denial of massacre...:  More on US cover-up and denial of massacre... 1993– UN investigation released documents that clearly showed that the US systematically engaged in a cover-up of the El Mozote massacre. 1979, Revolution in Nicaragua. US still held to the outdated Cold War “Domino Theory”. US supported the “Contras” in Nicaragua that fought against the democratically elected left-wing government in Nicaragua. US called the Contras “Freedom Fighters.” There is also a connection between the funding of the “contras” and Iranian arms deals that the Reagan/Bush administration engaged in. Read some of the newly released files in the National Security Archive: www.gwu.edu/~narchiv/ Bishop Oscar Romero:  Bishop Oscar Romero The El Mozote massacre (December 1981) was preceded by the assassination on March 24, 1980 of Bishop Oscar Romero. Romero was celebrating mass. Imagine the outcry … a US Catholic bishop being murdered by US military while celebrating mass … During the past 7 years, documents have been released by the National Security Archive showing that the US ambassador to ES lied and covered up the massacre. Guns, Greed, and the SOA:  Guns, Greed, and the SOA Documentary produced by Maryknoll Sisters, a Catholic Order Nov. 1989, El Salvador — assassination of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. 19 of the 26 implicated in the murder were graduates of the SOA. March 1980 — assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. 2 of the 3 implicated in the murder were graduates of the SOA. Dec. 1980 — murder and rape of four churchwomen in El Salvador. 3 of the 5 implicated in the murder and the rape were graduates of the SOA. Dec. 1981 — murder of almost 900 residents of the little village of El Mozote. Of 143 bodies exhumed, 130 were children under the age of 10. Further exhumation was stopped for lack of money. 10 of the 12 implicated in the massacre were graduates of the SOA. Columbia — 240 cases of human rights violations. Half of those implicated were graduates of the SOA. Chiapas, Mexico. Now that Mexican peasants are learning how to stand up to the military, Mexico has more of its military trained at SOA. The neo-colonial 21st century “conquerors” :  The neo-colonial 21st century “conquerors” The new 21st century “conquerors” of El Salvador and other “third world” countries are US and European multi-national corporations: IBM, GAP, Citibank, Wal-Mart, Nike, Banana Republic, GUESS, Hanes, Dell etc. This is now called Outsourcing The factories in El Salvador (and elsewhere) are considered “free trade zones”. That means: US and European companies have their products produced in a given country. But there are nor trade union protections for the workers. In the “Free Trade Zones,” there is: mandatory overtime, lack of toilet facilities, sexual harassment, unsafe working condition, child labor, routine body searches, no protection for pregnant women, virtually no ventilation in the summer and no heat in the winter. And the pay is often under 60 cent per hour. See book by: Naomi Klein No Logo. Some uncomfortable truths for all of us… … and some possible remedies to engage in Peace Studies :  Some uncomfortable truths for all of us… … and some possible remedies to engage in Peace Studies We all must realize that our own lifestyle depends on the labor done by the people in El Salvador and in other “third world” countries. We in the US have less that 10% of the world’s population; yet we consume more than 50% of the world’s resources. Our affluent lifestyle is often the cause for other people’s suffering. Please consider recycling; Consider buying less; Consider using less water and other precious resources; Consider walking more; Consider using less electricity and turning off unnecessary lights, etc. We often have what we have (at low prices) because others are denied to have what they produced? Do we have the “right” to have so much when others lack the barest necessities? There are millions of people who are devastated by poverty and malnutrition. “Fun to eat” Fritos? For most people in the world eating is not “fun.” Many children cry themselves to sleep at night because they are hungry. Consider joining local groups and other individuals that address some of these issues.

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