El Salvador After 1979: Forces In The Conflict
SUBJECT AREA History
WAR SINCE1945 SEMINAR
El Salvador After 1979:
Forces in the Conflict
Major Charles O. Skipper, USMC
2 April 1984
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Development and Education Command
Quantico, Virginia 22134
EL SALVADOR AFTER 1979--FORCES IN THE CONFLICT,
by Major Charles Olan Skipper, United States Marine
Corps, April 1, 1984.
El Salvador is a Central American country with a
political history every bit as interrupted with violence as
the landscape is marked by volcanoes. The history of the
country is one of periods of uneasy stability infrequently
interrupted by acts of incredible repression and violence.
Today El Salvador again is undergoing a period of unrest and
turmoil. There are several opposing views of the situation:
one that it is a genuine revolution of the populace, the
second that El Salvador is a victim of communist
exploitation, and the third that it is a combination of both.
This study examines the causes of the conflict and attempts
to analyze the motivations and behavior of each of the major
participating groups. In this manner it is hoped the study
will conclude what is the exact nature of the present
conflict and offer some recommendations for its resolution.
Though the recorded history of El Salvador goes back
hundreds of years, this paper only examines the events which
have transpired since October 15, 1979 when a bloodless coup
ended 50 years of military dictatorship. The major
participating forces in the conflict are analyzed as to how
they impact on the conflict as a whole:
* The left--Organization, motivation, and objectives.
* The church--Its changing role and position between the
left and right.
* The government--The members, policies and trends of
the government, to-include the performance of
the armed forces.
* The right--Stated objectives, effectiveness, and
* External Influences--The impact on the conflict of
pressures on, and support for, the various
forces by Western Europe, the CONTADORA Group,
Communist Countries, and the United States.
The years since the coup have seen El Salvador struggle
to maintain an orderly society while fighting a prolonged
guerilla war. Approximately 35,000 Salvadoreans have died in
this conflict over the past four years, a high percentage for
a nation of only five million People. Sadly, the conflict is
no closer to resolution now than it was when it began. The
guerillas claim elections are fraudulent and want to
negotiate power sharing. The government claims elections are
honest and power must come from the ballot box.
There is no simple solution to the Salvadorean fighting.
There are so many complicating forces that solutions will
come slowly, if at all. The outcome of the Presidential
Election, scheduled for March 25, 1984, most certainly will
not end the fighting. This paper does offer some
recommendations for the United States Government, as it seeks
a role in this conflict.
This paper was prepared under the auspices of the Marine
Corps Command and Staff Colleges "War Since 1945" seminar
The topic was selected by the author and research conducted
independently. Accordingly, the opinions and interpretations
are flavored based on previous duty assignments and personal
experience. The views and opinions expressed are those of
the authors and make no attempt to reflect official policy of
the Department of Defense or U.S. Government.
Due to the limitations of the word processor which was
utilized, accent marks for Spanish words were not used.
Also, footnotes are shown enclosed in ( ) rather than their
normal raised position.
One of the difficulties in a project such as this is the
continuation of the conflict. Newspapers and magazines
continue to publish stories of the significant events as they
unfold, often without taking time to ensure absolute
accuracy. This being the situation, this paper should only
be viewed as a snapshot which was taken in the early spring
of 1984. Other "experts" will have to provide the final
conclusions after the conflict ends, at some undetermined
date in the future.
This paper is dedicated to Gabrielle, Genevieve, and
Nathaniel who saw very little of their daddy during the many
months he devoted to its completion.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents v
Chapter I: Background 1
Indian Heritage 2
Spanish Rule 3
King Coffee 6
The Matanza 8
The Soccer War 10
The Coup of 1979 21
Chapter II: The Left 26
Formation of the CRM 26
Evolution of the FDR, DRU, FMLN 29
The Final Offensive 33
Economic and Military Disruption 36
The 1982 Elections 38
Fight or Negotiate 39
Continuing the Fight 41
Chapter III: The Church 44
The Medellin Conference 44
Christian Base Communities 46
The War of the Romeros 47
Assasination of the Archbishop 51
In Search of Unity 53
Chapter IV: The Government 56
The First Junta
The Second Junta 61
The Third Junta 64
Provisional President Duarte
The Constituent Assembly 75
Problems Within the Military Hierarchy 79
The National Campaign Plan 81
Preparing For Elections 82
Chapter V: The Fight 86
FALANGE and UGB 88
The Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Brigade 92
A Role in Government 93
Pressure From The United States 96
Chapter VI: External Influences 100
Western Europe 100
The CONTADORA Group 101
Communist Countries 105
United States 108
Chapter VII: Conclusions and Recommendations 119
Appendix A: Abbreviations and Acronyms 139
Appendix B: Map of El Salvador 142
"Coffee growers should not anguish over the situation in El
Salvador today; there was a similar one in 1932, and if it
was solved then it can be now."
- Representative of the Frente
Unido Cafetalero (coffee
plantation owners), March 1980
Chapter I: Background
El Salvador is the smallest inland area yet the most
densely populated of the Central American Republics. Its
area is approximately 82.60 square miles, about the size of
the state of Massachusettes. Its population is approximateiy
5 million. The country is bounded on the west by Guatemala,
on the north and east by Honduras and on the South by the
Pacific Ocean and Nicaragua.(1) El Salvador is the only
country in Central America without direct access to the
El Salvador is relatively mountainous, with the terrain
studded by geologically young volcanoes. These volcanoes,
some of which still infrequently erupt, provide the volcanic
soil which is so important for the growing of the country's
most significant crop--coffee. The climate is generally
semitropical and the area is not known to possess significant
quantaties of minerals.(2)
Most of the population lives in the broad central region
of the country which is made up of valleys and plateaus.
Almost all the arable land is under cultivation, with the
very important coffee crop planted on the mountain slopes.(3)
Prior to the discovery of the new world by Columbus, the
land of El Salvador was shared by two distinct peoples.
Their domains were separated by the Lempa River, which runs
generally from north to south and splits the country in half.
In the mountainous western portion of the country lived the
Pipil Indians, who were related to the Aztecs of Mexico. To
the east lived the Mayans. Both of these peoples had a
relatively advanced degree of civilization.(4) In fact, the
Pipils were one of the few Indian groups to abolish human
sacrifice early in their history.(5)
The early indian inhabitants of El Salvador had a well
organized agricultural life. They grew maize, beans, squash
and other crops for subsistence, and for trade used cocoa.
No one owned the land, which was redistributed by the local
village chiefs as needed. Public granaries were used to
ensure that both shortages and abundance were shared on an
The early indian residents did not just live on and farm
the land. Rather, their entire lifestyle was tied to the
land. Corn was regarded as a god, cocoa was considered
sacred, and the land was a goddess. Ritual and magic were
totally integrated into each step of the agricultural
cycle.(6) Labor was well divided so that the land was not
just worked, but respected.
In 1524 the famous conquistador Pedro de Alvarado was
sent from Mexico by Hernan Cortes to conquer the area. He
was forced to retreat by the Pipil forces, but he returned in
1525 and was successful after many bloody battles. He
succeeded in bringing the district under control of the
Captaincy General of Guatemala, where it remained until
The conquistadors subjugated, exploited, and nearly
killed off the indians because of the diseases they
introduced into the region and their system of exploitation.
Indians were forced to leave their native villages and move
to the haciendas of their Spanish masters. They were given a
milpa, or garden plot, and a house. There they worked in
fields that belonged to the hacienda, rented their house, and
purchased food and clothing from their masters. By making
the indians increasingly indebted, the landowners soon
transformed these once proud people into virtual slaves. As
more and more of the indian villages were absorbed into
nearby haciendas, the native population declined such that
not until the 1890's did it return to its early 16th century
These efforts to fit the indians into the Spanish
economy did appear to have some benefits. Indians were
Christianized, made to conform to Spanish laws and customs,
and received some degree of protection from the Spanish
colonists by the laws. However, there were also tremendous
negative effects. The indian peasants were economically
exploited. Their society, which was united by common
religious cultural and ethnic traits, was replaced by a
totally alien Spanish culture.(9)
With intermarriage and interbreeding, eventually a
conglomerate race evolved known in Spanish as the mestizos:
part Indian, part European. In Central America mestizos are
known as Ladinos. Today in El Salvador Ladinos make up over
90% of the population. In reality the difference between
Ladino and Indian is not a racial one. Those who take up
European ways are Ladinos, those who take up native indian
ways are Indians.(10)
Within the Spanish Empire was the kingdom of Guatemala.
This kingdom was comprised of six provinces which now make up
the nations of Central America and part of Mexico. Each
province had a governor who was subordinate to the Captain
General, who ruled from the City of Guatemala. The Captain
General was subordinate to the Viceroy of New Spain, who
ruled from Mexico City. In 1821 El Salvador and the other
Central American nations declared their independence from
Spain. This action was based on the fact that Mexico had
become a republic, and the Central American nations wanted to
duplicate this event. It was natural for the newly
independent Mexico to attempt to bring Central America under
its control. In an attempt to resist this El Salvador's
congress sent an appeal to the United States and on November
22, 1822, in the Act of Annexation, formally declared itself
a state of the United States. The Emperor of Mexico, Austin
de Iturbide, resisted this action however, and the United
States Congress rejected the petition. While El Salvador
continued to fight Mexican military forces sent to enforce
its membership in Mexico's Central American Union, a
revolution in Mexico ousted Emperor Iturbide in February
The new Mexican Congress soon voted to allow the Central
American provinces self determination, and in 1823 the
"United Provinces of Central America" was formed. Consisting
of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaraqua, and Costa
Rica, Guatemala City was made the capital and in 1825 Manuel
Jose Arce was the first president.(11) Due to selfishness,
ideological differences, and despotic rule the Central
American state was dissolved in 1838 and El Salvador became
an independent Republic. Between 1842 and 1862 there were at
least eight attempts for reunification, but rivalries and
jealosies blocked any chance at success. Even to this day,
organizations such as the Organization of American States
(OAS) have failed to solve most problems that exist between
Whereas Indigo was the chief crop during colonial times,
Gerardo Barrios, President of El Salvador from 1859-1863,
estabiished the coffee industry.(13) As coffee became more
popular, the situation developed which created the social and
economic elite. As the noted Central American historian
Harald Jung says:
Betweeen 1880 and 1912, the common lands of the
villages in the hilly volcanic regions were for the
most part sold to urban middle and uppper class
families at giveaway prices, a small portion alone
being distributed among the villagers. Since the
coffee tree needs five years growth before its
first harvest, its cultivation is only possible for
persons with a certain amount of capital, and
hardly at all for small farmers, for whom the land
has to provide their basic foodstuffs. Right from
the beginning, therefore, coffee was concentrated
pre-eminently in the hands of a small and
realatively rich coffee bourgeoisie owning large
The patterns of life which evolved for the campesinos
was to farm a small plot of land, either as squatters or
colonos (on the hacienda). These small plots were
insufficient for the most basic food, clothing and medicine
needs of the peasant's family so the men became migratory.
They would follow the harvest, first working coffee during
its reason and later sugarcane or cotton during its season.
Meanwhile they hoped their corn was ripening back on their
milpa. This migratory life style created social havoc. The
women and children lived alone in cardboard cartons and other
makeshift shelters. There they waited each year for their
men to return. If not their own man, then any man who could
support them. Each year, with the same regularity as the
agricultural cycle, men came and went--leaving behind
pregnant women. Increasingly, the men changed masters or
drifted off to cities in search of work so that by the 1930's
the family structure of the campesinos was ruined. Numerous
documented studies in the 1920's and 1930's reported that
between 50-60% of all births in El Salvador were
Although the coffee economy benefited the economic elite
and was disruptive to the cultural and economic existence of
the indians and ladinos, there can be little doubt the coffee
also provided many jobs. It also earned foreign exchange for
the country, provided revenue for central and local
government, and financed the construction of roads, bridges,
and railroads.(16) This period gave rise to the Los Catorce
(Fourteen Families), who owned most of the land and
controlled political power. Even today the perception
continues of the Fourteen Families as the El Salvador
oligarchy that controls the export crops, in particular
coffee. (Experts now estimate there is actually 200-300
families in this oligarchy, but there can be little doubt
that traditionally the wealth of the land in El Salvador has
been controlled by the few.) As coffee prices increased,
through the 1920's, there was generally political stability
and the presidency changed hands peacefully with regular 4-5
This relatively stable period in El Salvador's history
ended in the 1930's with the economic disaster of the
depression in the industrialized world which caused coffee
prices to drop by 50%. Fueled by years of social and
economic exploitation, in 1930 farm workers formed a
communist organization, the Federacion Regional de
Trabajadores. (FRTS--Regional Federation of Salvadoran
Workers). In April 1930 they collected 50,000 signatures to
a petition demanding a "worker's law" that would guarantee
farm contracts and minimum wage. On May Day 1930, 80,000
workers and peasants marched into San Salvador demanding
minimum wages for farm workers ahd relief centers for the
unemployed. President Don Pio Romero Bosque tried to take
steps to reduce discontent, but he was unsuccessful. Alarmed
by the success of the Marxist FRTS, the government on August
12, 1930 passed a decree prohibiting worker's rallies and the
printing or circulation of Marxist propaganda. Through
August and September the government backed its words by
fining and jailing many campesinos, including communist chief
Augustin Farabundo Marti.
In an attempt to regain his popularity, Don Pio made the
unprecedented decision to open up the electoral campaign to
all parties. The Labor Movement ran Don Arturo Araujo, a
well educated engineer who was a leader of popular
discontent. Declared the winner on February 12, 1931 he had
many problems to solve due to the demands of the workers, the
military, the oligarchy, and the depression. He selected
General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez as vice president and
minister of war. Araujo was a failure, and on December 2,
1931 the military took over by a coup d'etat. Since Martinez
had been the previous vice-president, apparent pressure from
Washington had him installed as provisional chief of state
until elections were held. After taking office on December
10, 1931 Martinez immediately used the police, guardia, army,
and judges in an attempt to crush the labor movement.(18)
The municipal and legislative elections which were held in
early January 1932 were characterized by fraud, violence, and
manipulation. The military government then refused to allow
the marxist candidates who won in the election to assume
their seats in the government.
The marxist leaders then called for simultaneous
uprisings in the cities, countryside, and military garrisons.
Three days before the uprising Augustin Farabundo Marti and
other marxist leaders were arrested, but the uprising
continued on schedule.(19) On January 22, 1932, just as El
Salvador's major volcano Izalco erupted, several thousand
peasants in many regions of the country attacked villages and
cities. Their targets were local oligarchs, military
outposts, and telegraph stations. Although there were some
initial successes by the machete wielding peasants, they were
no match for rifles and machine guns. By January 25 the
fighting was virtually over. According to Thomas P. Anderson
in Matanza, although there was and still is a persistent
belief that hundreds of the burgeoisie were murdered, in
fact only 35 were killed. He also states that less than 100
people were killed by the rebels even when military
casualties are included.
With the rebellion stopped, the matanza or massacre
subsequently occurred. Suspects were rounded up. Anyone
carrying a machete or with strong Indian features was assumed
guilty. Many were executed by firing squad after digging
their own grave. Estimates very, but at least 10,000 and
perhaps 30,000 rebels were massacred. Marti ahd two other
leaders were tried by the military and executed on February
1, 1932 even though they were in jail during the
uprising.(20) It is because of the matanza that today in El
Salvador even the most modest reform movement is referenced
to 1932 and labeled as communist inspired by the land owners
and other members of the establishment.
The Soccer War
Under General Hernandez Martinez the big landowners
forfeited some political power to the military although they
maintained their wealth and prestige. There was little
improvement for the rural poor and he ruled with repression
and toughness. After 13 years in which the country failed to
attempt to industrialize, General Hernandez Martinez was
forced to resign when he tried to have his term extended for
another five years. He was replaced by General Salvador
Castaneda Castro who ruled over a stable yet repressed
country until 1950; again no social or economic improvement
developed for the rural poor.
Castro was replaced by Colonel Oscar Osorio in 1950
after more fraudulent elections.(21) During his six year
administration as President, the country finally started to
move forward. Public housing, legalized labor unions,
industries, social security, and an electric power network
were started. Studies were also begun that lead to the
creation of new manufacturing industries. Osorio was
replaced after another fraudulent election by Jose Maria
Lemus, who continued the programs and ruled until 1960.(22)
Both Osorio and Lemus were members of Partido Revolucionario
de Unificacion Democratica (PRUD-- Revolutionary Party of
Democratic Unification). Although the poor were repressed
and elections were fraudulent under PRUD, their policies did
bring some growth and modernization to the Salvadorean
economy. These policies also brought about the initial
development of small middle and working classes in the
In 1961 the Central American Common Market was formed
with support from the United States. This free trade zone
for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa
Rica provided some positive economic benefits to the middle
American countries as well as spurring United States
investment. By 1962 the PRUD party was no longer in favor
due to election frauds, continuing repression, and lack of
improvement in living conditions. Out of its ashes arose the
Partido de Conciliacion Nacional (PCN---Party of National
Although the PCN was supported by the same military and
oligarchy interests, there were some changes. The party
would run the official candidate every five years and would
ensure that it won the election by continuing the fraud.
However, opposition parties were allowed to exist and to hold
mayoralities and seats in the national assembly. Backed by
the PCN, Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera ruled from 1962 to
1967. He was followed in the PCN chain of succession by
Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez, who ruled until 1972.
The 1960's saw the birth of opposition parties to the
PCN. The Partido Democrata Cristiano (PDC--Christian
Democratic Party) was supported by European Christian
Democrats and local professionals; it soon became the largest
opposition party. It was lead by Jose Napoleon Duarte, an
engineer and mayor of San Salvador. The Movimiento Nacional
Revolucionario (MNR--National Revolutionary Movement) was
founded by moderate socialists associated with the National
University of El Salvador and headed by Guillermo Manuel
Ungo. The Union Democratica Nacionalista (UDN--National
Democratic Union) was formed as a surrogate party for the
Salvadorean Communist Party (PCS--Partido Comunista
Salvadoreno), which had been illegal since 1932.(24)
By 1969 the population of El Salvador had increased to
3.55 million from 1.44 million in 1930. This population
explosion was caused by a very high growth rate of over 3%
per year combined with the elimination of yellow fever and
malaria.(25) With no land available for the increased
population, the rural poor became increasingly desperate.
While many drifted to urban areas in search of food and jobs,
the lure of better economic conditions in nearby countries
lead many to cross borders. By 1969 some 300,000
Salvadoreans were living and working in Honduras. Meanwhile
Honduras was faced with their own economic and political
problems and decided to institute a program of land reform.
They decided to forcibly expel the highly visible 300,000
Salvadorean immigrants who had taken up residence over the
years, representing some 12% of the Honduran population. By
June 1969 some 25,000 Salvadoreans came streaming back across
the border. At the same time a very bitterly fought World
Cup soccer match was being played between the two
countries.(26) As a result of some minor injuries to people
of either country attending the soccer games in the other
country, press agitation, and the Salvadorean refugee
problem, on July 14, 1969 "The Soccer War" began.
El Salvador began the war at 5:50 pm on July 14, 1969
with the Air Force making a surprise attack on Honduran
targets. The raid was unsuccessful due to the inadequacy of
the aircraft: 11 fighter planes (propeller driven aircraft
from World War II) and 5 twin engine bombers (DC-3's fitted
with external racks).(27) The ground forces were made up of
some 9,000 poorly equipped troops, including the army and
security forces. They fared somewhat better and at some
points penetrated up to 18 miles into Honduras.(28) After
four days a ceasefire was arranged under pressure from the
Organization of American States and United States. El
Salvador agreed to withdraw their troops and by August 2,
1969 all Salvadorean forces had been removed.(29)
President Sanchez ordered a victory parade which was
held on August 5 and witnessed by perhaps half a million
cheering Salvadoreans. Nevertheless, the war was a disaster
for the country.
* Salvadoreans continued to be expelled from Honduras,
until approximately 130,000 had been deported.
* The refugees, who had lost everything, swelled the
ranks of the unfed and unemployed.
* The war shattered the Central American Common Market
and El Salvador lost access to the profitable Honduran
* The Army lost face over the crisis and a phony
Electoral fraud in the March 1970 elections caused the
PDC to lose most of its mayoralities and seats on the
National assembly. Due to the continuing fraudulent
elections and severe economic recession, the leftist
opposition parties (PDC, MNR, UDN), united to form the Union
Nacional Oppositora (UNO--National Opposition Union). They
ran their best known figure, Jose Napoleon Duarte, for
President in the February 1972 elections. Although it
appeared that Duarte had defeated Colonel Molina, once again
the election returns were manipulated and the PCN supported
Molina was declared the winner.(31) A small faction within
the Army then attempted a coup against the illegal government
which failed after a few days. Duarte, who had been
contacted by the rebels at the last moment, was arrested,
tortured, and exiled.(32)
The 1974 elections were again characterized by fraud and
UNO failed to get the seats it had earned. Discouraged over
the situation and shifting over to a strategy of
demonstration and strikes, UNO decided to withdraw from the
1976 election. President Molina refused permission to
withdraw, and with UNO urging nonparticipation the PCN took
every seat in the legislature and every mayorality.
After much discussion the UNO decided to participate in
the 1977 presidential elections. They ran a hero of the
Honduran War, Colonel Ernesto Claramount Rozeville. He did
not have a tremendous political following, but was known to
be honest and courageous. The PCN ran defense minister
General Carlos Humberto Romero. Again there was widespread
electoral fraud and Romero was declared the winner. A few
days after the election, on February 28, 1977 Claramount and
the UNO held a massive peaceful demonstration in Plaza de
Libertad, where the National Cathedral and National Palace
both face each other. National Police and other troops
stormed the square as Claramount and other leaders sought
sanctuary in the cathedral. Under machine gun fire some 200
people were believed to have been massacred, although the
government would only admit to six deaths. (Fire hoses were
used to wash the blood out of the streets.) Claramount and
other key figures in UNO were arrested and sent, into exile.
The left, seeing that their tactics of peaceful
demonstration were unsucessful, soon turned to increased
violence to achieve their aims. Government facilities were
bombed, radio stations were seized and propaganda broadcast,
and assassinations were carried out. Banks were robbed and
kidnappings for ransom were conducted, supposedly to obtain
cash to buy arms and explosives on the international arms
market.(33) These violent acts were executed by radical
elements and splinter groups from the numerous leftist groups
that had sprung up in the early 1970's.
To combat these actions President General Romero had a
new law put into effect on November 24, 1977. The Ley de
Orden, Law for the Defense and Guarantee of Public Order,
gave the government sweeping powers to prevent dissent. It
legally abolished much of the normal judicial protection
allowed under Salvadorean law. During the period the law was
in effect, Romero used his 8,000 man Army and 5,000 man
security forces to repress dissent and revenge leftist
successes. Disappearances were common and it was widely
believed that the military police forces worked together with
and supported the right wing death squads. The security
forces (Guardia Nacional, the rural police force; Policia
Nacional, Guardia's urban counterpart; Policia de Advana,
customs police; and Policia de Hacienda, treasury police)
either were involved with the extremist groups or absolutely
incompetent, as arrests for even the most widely seen violent
acts never occurred.
In January 1979 General Romero went to Mexico to secure
a contract for Mexican oil and to portray his government in a
positive manner to the international community. Unfortu-
nately, during his trip a report was leaked to the press on
the status of human rights in El Salvador. The report had
been a full year in the making and had been prepared by the
human rights commission of the Organization of American
States. It told how the committee members, acting on a tip
while in El Salvador, had found the secret cells at the
Guardia headquarters. They saw the torture apparatus and the
secret cells where prisoners had scrawled their names on the
walls. At a press conference in Mexico City Romero was
unable to explain away the report and consequently the
international community brought pressure to bear.(34)
The pressure from human rights groups and U.S. Embassy
finally caused Romero to lift the Ley de Orden in March 1979.
However, by then damage had been done. The decade of the
70's had seen the left become more convinced to fight the
government and the guerilla groups had become much stronger
and more determined. The right, in return, had also become
more and more willing to use its terror tactics.
Campesino unions had been officially banned since 1932,
although the government had formed its own peasant
association in 1970, the Union Comunal Salvadorena
(UCS--Salvadorean Communal Union), in an attempt to stave off
rural discontent. Nevertheless two real peasant
organizations came into existance in the early 1970s: the
Union de Trabajadores del Campo (UTC---Farm Workers Union),
and the Catholic Church sponsored Federacion Cristiana de
Campesinos Salvadorenos (FECCAS-Christian Federation of
In 1974 the Frente de Accion Popular Unida (FAPU--United
Popular Action Front) was formed, composed of some small
peasant organizations, labor organizations, and assorted
students and teachers groups. This was the first of the
popular movements and it brought together people from several
walks of life with the common interest of bringing down the
government and changing the social order. In 1975 FECCAS and
UTC founded the Bloque Popular Revolucionario (BPR--Popular
Revolutionary Bloc), bringing into the fold the Asociacion
Nacional de Educadores Salvadorenos (ANDES--National
Association of Salvadorean Educators), the country's most
powerful teachers organization. 1978 saw the formation of
Ligas Populares, 28 de Febrero (LP-28--Popular Leagues of 28
February) named after the 1977 massacre. The Union
Democratica Nacionalista (UDN--National Democratic Union),
continued to function as a legal front for the illegal PCS.
Each of these major popular groups; BPR, FAPU, LP-28, and
UDN, had an armed guerilla wing to defend and protect their
movement from right wing and other repressive forces. BPR
had the Fuerzas Populares de Liberacion (FPL--Popular Forces
of Liberation). FAPU had the Fuerzas Armadas de Resistencia
Nacional (FARN--Armed Forces of National Resistence). The
LP-28 had the Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo
(ERP--Peoples Revolutionary Army). The UDN had the PCS.
The right wing groups had also been strengthened during
this period. In 1964-65 the government attempted to win over
sectors of peasants in the countryside by creating a
paramilitary anti-revolutionary organization. It got members
by giving special privileges in employment, hospitals, and
schools, and in return members supervised the villages where
they lived and reported attempts at subversion. By the early
1970's the Organizacion Democratica Nacionalista
(ORDEN--National Democratic Organization) covered virtually
every village and town with a dense network of informers and
collaborators. They specialized in aiding security forces
and other organizations in attempting to put down rural
In 1976, in response to a mild attempt at land reform by
the government, the businessmen and land owners quickly
intervened. The outcry from the Asociacion Nacional de
Empresa Privada (ANEP--National Association of Private
Enterprise) and Frente Agraria Region Oriental (FARO--Eastern
Region Agrarian Front) brought on a government crisis that
blocked the attempt. The right was not content to leave all
repression up to the security forces however, and the death
squad known as the Union Guerrera Blanca (UGB--White Warrior
Union) soon made its presence known in the assassination of
any one known or thought to be connected with the guerilla
movement. The UGB was staunchly anti-communist,
anti-guerilla, and rumored to work closely with the security
forces. The Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Anticomunista-
Guerra de Eliminacion (FALANGE--Anti-Communist Armed Forces
of Liberation-War of Elimination) was another right wing
death squad believed to consist of active, retired, or off
duty members of the security forces.
The Coup of 1979
By 1978 it was clear that Romero was losing control of
his country. There was continuing violent conflict between
the extreme right and the extreme left. Because of this
violence the economy worsened. Some 300 million dollars left
the country in 1978 due to capital flight and the once
significant Japanese business community declined from 2400 to
200 individuals. Falling prices for coffee in the world
market casued high inflation and a corresponding drop in real
wages for the rural workers.(35)
Violence became a daily occurence. Between 1977 and
1979 seven priests were assasinated by the security forces or
death squads because of their suspected support of the
leftists. President Romeros Government was strongly
criticized by Archbishop Romero of El Salvador for these and
other deaths. The spring of 1979 saw massive strikes and
demonstrations against the government. Both BPR and FAPU
occupied foreign embassies and government offices. The
government struck back by conducting sweeps of suspected
guerilla areas, with the Army killing peasants and raping
Then in 1979 a major and well publicized crisis occurred
on May 9, 1979 when a CBS cameraman stood in front of the
Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador watching 300 peaceful
protestors. They were decked out with red and yellow
flowers, the colors of the BPR. They carried signs demanding
the release of five BPR leaders who had "disappeared" that
week. Suddenly two olive green trucks appeared in the square
and deposited armed troops who opened fire on the
demonstrators. The camera recorded bodies being hit by
bullets, dying people rolling down steps, and sharp shooters
picking off protestors from behind parked cars. Twenty-three
people died in the massacre, and El Salvador was revealed to
the world as a country where the government killed unarmed
The incident brought on further actions which deepened
the crisis. Ten members of the BPR occupied the Venezuelan
Embassy to protest the killings. The military then cordoned
off the building and cut of food, electricity, and water to
those inside. On May 23 the security forces opened fire on a
BPR march which was bringing food and water to those inside
the embassy. Althought the marchers were unarmed women and
children, the security force opened fire--killing 14. The
climate worsened with many strikes, work stoppages, and
murders, and by September of 1980 most walls in downtown San
Salvador were covered with graffiti proclaiming the need for
liberation of El Salvador.(37)
Many younger officers in the El Salvador Army had
watched the events of 1979 closely. They saw the need for
change in their country to improve social conditions and stop
the repression. A small group started in March 1979 meeting
with influential civilians, the United States Embassy, and
members of the Catholic Church to encourage Romero to resign.
On July 17, 1979 the Sandinistas succeeeded in driving
Anastasio Somoza out of Nicaragua and his National Guard
collapsed. Many members of the National Guard fled through
El Salvador and the members of the Salvadorean Army saw
fellow officers who had lost everything. They had lost their
homes, families, and country, and the Salvadorean officers
saw a similar fate in their future if they didn't do
On October 15, 1979 the young officers, average age 32,
carried out a virtually bloodless coup. The commander of
each of the fourteen army barracks was awakened at 0600 by
one of the junior officers, informed a coup was taking place,
and that he was confined to quarters. The security forces
did not resist and by 1700 President Romero was flown into
exile in Guatemala.(39)
On October 18, 1979 the five members of the new
governing junta were presented to the nation at a well
attended press conference at the Casa Presidencial. The
junta was made up of the following two military officers and
* Colonel Adolfo Majano--an offficer who saw the need for
reform and was respected by the young military
officers. He was commander of the military arsenal
and had studied at Texas A&M and Ft. Benning.
* Colonel Jaime Abdul Guitierrez--He supported the coup
because of the drastic situation of the country, but
he was less inclined to make needed reforms. He was
head of the escuela militar (military school).
* Roman Mayorga Quiroz--This 37 year old progressive was
head of the Jesuit University in El Salvador.
* Guillermo Ungo--A soft spoker intellectual who was
head of MNR (National Revolutionary Movement).
* Mario Andino--The manager of Phelps Dodge subsidiary,
he was the representative of private business and
supported moderate reform. (40)
The cabinet included many representatives of opposition
parties, including the PDC and the PCS. Since the junta had
publicly proclaimed its support for ending violence and
corruption, disolving ORDEN, respecting human rights, and
improving the economy, it was generally accepted by the
international community as a positive step toward reform and
stability. By including the many different factions within
the government it was hoped that El Salvador could work out
its problems and avoid civil war.
El Salvador's history up to the 1979 coup saw increased
economic and political repression of the vast majority of its
populace. As the poor organized and attempted to counter the
repression, the right simply became more intransigent. With
no improvement in living conditions or social justice for the
poor the left became more violent. This violence was matched
or exceeded by the right. The failure of the repression to
achieve submission of the masses can only be seen as
demonstrating the strength of the revolution The coup of
1979 offered to both the left and the right a chance to avoid
civil war if all the Salvadoreans could work together to
begin solving the country's many problems.
"There can be no surrender on our side because the guerillas
are not losing the war."
- Statement by FDR Secretary
General Guillermo Ungo over
Radio Venceremos in October,
Chapter II: The Left
Formation of the CRM
In late October 1979 the popular organizations of the
left began to test the new junta and in its commitment to
change. FAPU, BRP, and LP-28 occupied the metropolitan
cathedral, labor and education ministries, and 40 radio
stations. They occupied estates in the countryside and
refused to move off. They demanded higher wages, lower
prices for consumer goods, immediate land reform, an
investigation into the whereabouts of the disappeared, and
public trials of the officers guilty of crimes against the
Although the junta did take some actions to meet these
demands, the 30% increase in the minimum wage and plans for
agarian reform were not deemed adequate. Additionally, the
Army and security forces continued their policies of
surrounding villages and slaughtering any villagers they
suspected of being guerillas or guerilla sympathizers.(2) By
the end of October more than 100 demonstrators were shot by
the security forces. The junta itself declared that these
murders were the acts of groups in the security forces that
were not under its control.(3) This statement was a clear
confession of weakness by the junta. The left now realized
that neither they nor the right nor the armed forces were
taking the junta seriously, and consequently further actions
On January 9, 1980 a secret press conference was
conducted, with most of the nonjournalists' faces covered
with hoods to disguise their identity. Five of El Salvadors
most wanted and "most dangerous" guerillas announced their
groups unification into a coordinated command structure, the
Coordinadora Politico Militar (CPM--Political Military
Coordinating Committee). The FPL, FARN, and PCS would
coordinate their actions and end their differences that had
limited their effectiveness in the past. Although the ERP
was still not unified under the central command, unification
talks would continue.(4)
By January 11, 1980 the popular organizations of El
Salvador settled their differences and called a press
conference at the auditorium of the law school at the
National University in San Salvador. Starting the ceremony
by singing the national anthem in front of the El Salvador
flag, the left then announced their new structure.(5) The
Coordinadora Revolucionaria de las Masas (CRM-- Revolutionary
Coordinating Committee of the Masses) was a unification of
the popular forces of the BPR, FAPU, UDN, and LP-28. The CRM
then established the "Duties and Objectives of the
* To overthrow the reactionary military dictatorship and
* To end dominance of the landed oligarchy and
nationalize the land and industry
* To assure the democratic rights of the people
* To raise cultural standards, stimulate the popular
organizations, and create a new revolutionary armed
To demonstrate their new unity the popular forces called
for a mass demonstration on January 22, 1980--the 48th
anniversary of the 1932 Matanza. Between 80,000 to 200,000
people showed up in a march that took several hours.(7) The
start at 11 a.m. was indicative of future problems as the
marchers were sprayed with insecticde by a crop duster. At 1
p.m. as the column reached the Plaza de la Libertad shots
rang out, reportedly from the windows of the National Place.
The Salvadorean Human Rights Commission estimated the death
toll at 67 killed and 250 wounded. Despite the carnage, the
demonstration had proven the CRM did have diversified
support. The demonstrators had consisted of state employees,
factory workers, electricians, farm workers, and peasants.(8)
Evolution of the FDR, DRU,FMLN
Although there were many rumors of the so called "Final
Offensive" modeled after the successful model of the
Sandanistas of Nicaragua, the guerillas did not move in mass.
Perhaps they lacked the training and equipment for a large
scale conventional attack; however a better reason may be
that the military forces had them off balance. (9)
On April 18, 1980 the popular forces challenged the
perception of El Salvador having a clear left, center, and
right. Some 5000 people crowded into the auditorium at the
National University to see the formation of the Frente
Democratico Revolucionario (FDR---Democratic Revolutionary
Front). Joining the four Popular Organizations (UDN, LP-28,
BPR, FAPU) in the CRM was the Movimiento Liberacion del
Pueblo (MPL--Peoples Liberation Movement). Joining the CRM
in the FDR was the Democratic Front or FD. It was made up of
most of the remaining democratic forces remaining in El
Salvador, including many men the U.S. State Department had
praised as being moderate when they served in the 1st and 2nd
* The MNR (Social Democrats), headed by Guillermo Ungo,
who had been Duarte's running mate in 1972 and had
served on the 1st Junta
* Dissident Christian Democrats (20% of the PDC), who
were dissatisfied by the progress of the juntas and
were headed by Ruben Zamora who had served on the 2d
junta. They formed the Partido Social Cristiana
(PSC--Social Christian Party)
* A union coalition representing 80% of the trade
unions, church people, professionals, students, small
business people and the universities.(10)
The FDR was headed by Secretary General Enrique Alvarez,
who was actually a "renegade" member of the 14 families who
had served in three governments (including the 1st junta--as
minister of agriculture). The newly formed FDR had brought
together virtually every democratic and revolutionary
organization in El Salvador, with the exception of the PDC.
Their platform was opposed to the oligarchy and imperialism
while supporting human rights, a mixed economy and political
pluralism. The FDR had become the largest political movement
in El Salvador's history. (11)
On May 22, 1980 the guerilla forces announced a new
command structure called the Direccion Revolucionaria
Unificada (DRU--Unified Revolutionary Directorate). The DRU
would coordinate the strategy and oversee the activities of
the four guerilla groups (FPL, FARN, ERP, PCS). The DRU was
recognized by the FDR as the vanguard of the Salvadorean
revolution. In return, the FDR was recognized as legitimate
representatives of the broad forces participating in the
revolution who would be the foundation of the future
The summer saw the fledgling FDR venturing overseas to
win support for its cause. They traveled to the United
States, Europe, the Caribbean and South America. They found
support in Europe from the countries with strong socialist
movements, but their biggest supporter was Mexico. The
government of President Lopez Portillo allowed the FDR to set
up its main offices abroad in Mexico City. (12) Meanwhile the
guerilla forces also found supporters in Mexico and nearby
Central American countries. This period probably also saw
the beginning of arms deliveries to the guerillas from
countries like Cuba, the Soviet Union, Libya, East Germany,
Although discouraging the traditional May Day
demonstration because of Government threats, the popular
forces flexed their muscles by calling for a two day strike
on June 25 and 26, 1980. The junta was caught completely by
surprise by the broad popular support for the FDR. Workers
occupied their factories and closed them, campesinos refused
to work on the farms, and 90% of the businesses didn't open.
Buses did not run and the streets were deserted.(14) The
government struck back however on June 27 and attacked the
National University with amored cars and 900 troops. The
University was shut down and at least 50 students were
killed. The government also took actions to neutralize
further strikes by passing decrees which forbade
participation by public sector unions and amending the
criminal code to make occupation of churches a "terrorist
crime."(15) For these and other reasons the next strike of
August 13-15 was generally regarded as a failure, although it
caused the militarization of all electric, water, and
telephone plants, as well as the port authority.(16)
On November 27, 1980 the popular forces suffered a
tremendous setback. Some 200 armed and uniformed men
surrounded the Jesuit high school in El Salvador where key
members of the FDR were meeting.(17) Approximately 20 armed
men in civilian clothes entered the building and took away at
gunpoint the secretary general of the FDR and a dozen or so
other people. Included were the leaders of the UDN, MNR,
MLP, and BPR. The government and military denied any
knowledge of the incident, and credit was soon claimed by a
right wing death squad, the Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez
Brigade.(18) The five bodies were found in a few hours near
Lake Ilopango seven miles from the capital. All had been
tortured and strangled.(19)
Although new leaders were quickly elected, these and
other actions convinced the FDR and the DRU that they had to
tighten security and work closer together. The guerilla
groups decided to unite under a single command known as the
Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional (FMLN--Farbundo
Marti National Liberation Front). The FMLN was named after
the communist leader-martyr of the 1932 uprising, and was
made up by the FPL, ERP, FARN, PCS, and the newly formed
Central American Revolutionary Workers Party (PRTC).(20)
The month of December, 1980 saw renewed action by the
FMLN. Towns were occupied, government troops were ambushed,
and military posts were attacked. Rumors again began to
circulate about the long awaited "final offensive."
The Final Offensive
By the end of 1980 the left had evolved into an
organized, disciplined force. Made up of Popular Forces (the
FDR) and Guerilla Forces (the FMLN), they had clear military
and political objectives. They would bring increasing
military pressure on the government until it fell and was
replaced by one they supported or controlled.
Click here to view image
On January 10, 1981 the FMLN launched their "final
offensive." (21) Additionally, the FDR called for a general
strike on January 13. Ten days into the offensive they had
had significant successes which were acknowledged by the
international press. The capitals of the departments of
Chalatenango (San Francisco) and Morazan (Gotera) were
captured.(22) The garrison of Santa Ana, the nation's second
largest city, defected under the leadership of Captain
Francisco Mena Sandoval who had been one of the leaders of
the young officers coup of October 1979.(23) The Salvadorean
Air Force installation was attacked and much of its equipment
destroyed. Over two-thirds of the country was the scene of
On January 14, 1981 the FDR and FMLN called a press
conference in Mexico City to announce the formation of a
Political Diplomatic Commission (government in exile). The
commission was made up of seven members from the popular
forces and was headed by Guillermo Ungo. They would travel
the world seeking support from governments, political
parties, and international organizations. They also shortly
announced their willingness to negotiate a political solution
to the conflict to avoid further bloodshed. They proposed
dialogue directly with the United States, not with the El
By the end of January it was apparent that the "final
offensive" was a failure. Although the guerillas had around
5000 soldiers, they could not match the 20,000 men of the
Salvadorean Army and security forces. Their weapons were
insufficient in numbers and the conversion from small
commando units to large scale conventional battles proved to
be beyond their ability. The towns and cities that had been
seized could not be held without heavy civilian casualties
caused by Air Force and artillery bombardment. Perhaps their
biggest failure was in not carrying the attack to the capital
city of San Salvador. Without this diversionary maneuver,
unarmed workers in the capital who went along with the strike
took the chance of virtually commiting suicide.
Nevertheless, some 26 factories struck, half the businesses
closed, and 20,000 public employees walked out on January
By February the general feeling in the capital was that
the war was over and the guerillas had been beaten. Many
international reporters however, left the capital and
traveled into the countryside. In contrast, there they found
many areas totally in control of the FMLN. They saw
underground hospitals and primitive munitions factories.
Probably most telling was that they saw the army stick very
near its garrisons in the towns and cities. Perhaps the
biggest gain of the "final offensive" was that certain areas
of the country had passed from political control by the left
to military control by the left. They now had secure areas
in which they could train, care for their wounded, and plan
During the spring and summer the FDR/FMLN's repre-
sentatives traveled to 33 countries.(27) In many of the
countries the FDR/FMLN established missions which served
their functions similar to an embassy. These international
efforts achieved real success on August 28, 1981 when the
French and Mexican Governments recognized the FDR/FMLN as a
representative political force that should be involved in any
Economic and Military Disruption
In late July, 1981 after several months of analysis,
re-equiping, and re-organization, the FMLN again went on the
offensive. On August 10 they captured Perguin Morazan, 200
kilometers northeast of San Salvador. They destroyed the
National Guard garrison killed six and for the first time
took prisoners of war. They announced they would adhere to
the Geneva Convention and asked the International Red Cross
to assume responsibility for the 40 prisoners. Twelve of the
prisoners joined the insurgents and the rest were turned
over. In addition to the potitical and moral victory of the
action, the guerillas also acquired rifles, machine guns, and
During the fall of 1981 the FMLN kept the pressure on
the army, especially in the eastern portion of El Salvador.
By blowing up telephone centers, electric towers, and bridges
they steadily isolated the region, consolidating their
strength and making it virtually inaccessible except by air.
On October 15, 1981 they destroyed the Puente de Oro (Golden
Bridge). The fact that they were able to evacuate the 1000
people living under each end of the bridge without alerting
the nearby garrisons was an indication of their improvements
in coordination and the growing support of the
By the end of 1981 the FMLN claimed to have destroyed 25
major bridges.(30) They continued to disrupt electric power
and telecommunications. Apparently the guerillas' strategy
was to steadily isolate the country, cause economic chaos,
and keep the army at bay. Eventually this would cause the El
Salvador government and the United States to either negotiate
power with the left or simply collapse. Repeated attempts by
the army to dislodge the guerillas from their base camps
failed, and the guerillas continued their disruption with
some degree of success.
During January 1982 the FMLN started another offensive.
On the night of January 27, FMLN commandos slipped into the
Ilopango AFB on the east side of San Salvador. Using
explosives, they destroyed a significant portion of El
Salvador's Air Force, including six of the fourteen UH-1H
helicopters.(31) They also attacked El Salvador's fourth
largest city, Usulutan. After one week they withdrew, unable
to defeat the army who withdrew into their garrison.
Nevertheless, the FMLN had succeeded again in carrying the
fight to the government's army. They had caused such
economic problems that only the United States kept the
government in power.
The 1982 Elections
During January and February the FMLN continued its
actions on a broad basis throughout the country. They urged
the peasants not to vote in the upcoming scheduled election
and forced the army to react to their continued attacks. The
FMLN general command sent a letter to President Reagan on
January 18, 1982 that said:
To pretend that the solution to the Salvadorean
conflict is the March elections is... outside
reality. How can a democractic process be
guaranteed in the context of indiscriminate
repression. If you can decide the destiny of the
United States, it is because you hold your office
by virtue of free elections.(32)
The left chose not to participate in the March 28
elections, believing the elections would be corrupt. They
saw the election apparatus as being in the hands of their
enemy and swore to continue their efforts before, during, and
after the balloting. Many international observers reported
the elections as being "fair though not free of diffi-
culties... no allegations of fraud or serious intimidation
could be entertained."(33) Nevertheless, the left failed to
accept its result as significant; especially since the
extreme rightist ARENA party had made such a strong showing
by gathering 30% of the vote after vowing to exterminate the
leftists in 30 days.
As 1982 wore on the left consolidated its control cover
zones in the countryside. They established guerilla councils
to care for the civil, economic, religious, and defense needs
of the people in the zones. They established collective
farms, compulsary education and medical care. Although they
were not pleased with the outcome of the election, they were
far from beaten.(34)
Fight or Negotiate
During the latter part of 1982 and early 1983 the left
maintained their positions in the departments of
Chalatenango, Morazan, San Vicente, and Usulutan. They
continued to sabotage military posts and key economic and
communications facilities such as bridges and powerlines.
The pattern was clear and repetive. The FMLN would seize
or occupy a town or settlement, the armed forces would
recapture the town and then withdraw, and the guerillas would
later return. Although the guerillas had only 5000 fighters
to oppose the growing government forces of 30,000 troops,
they kept the initiave and constantly had the army off
balance. Their major offensive in January 1983 led to the
rapture of the provincial capital of San Francisco Gotera,
the capture of the strategic town of Berlin in Usulutan, and
a seige on the San Carlos army barracks in San Salvador.
Nevertheless, their limited strength and lack of heavy
weapons meant they could not resist a determined
counterattack by the army.
In October, 1982 Manuel Ungo, head of the FDR, called
for a negotiated political settlement, asserting "there can
be no surrender because the guerrillas are not losing the
war."(35) In March 1983 Rubin Zamora, head of the PSC,
stated that the solution to El Salvador's problems must be
reached through political negotiations to end the war.(36)
Statements like this were not supported by every member of
the left and the differences soon became public. On April 6,
1983 Ana Maria, a member of the FMLN high command and second
in command of the FPL, was murdered at her home in Managua.
Nicaragua. Her assasins, who stabbed her 8 times with an
ice pick, were later apprehended by the Nicaraguan
authorities and found to also be members of the FPL. They
had used ice picks to make the murder resemble a brutal act
of the Salvadorean right wing. This extreme action was
caused by a deep division which had developed within the FPL.
The hard line faction, which opposed negotiation with the
government and supported a prolonged war, was led by Rogelio
Bazzaglio who confessed to the murder. The conciliatory
faction, which favored negotiation, was lead by Ana Maria and
Salvador Cayetano Carpio. Emotionally depressed over the
death of his soul mate, Carpio committed suicide on April
The overall effect of the two deaths in the FMLN
hierarchy apparently weakened the hard line position in favor
of the conciliatory-negotiation position. In August 1983
Rebel leaders held talks with the El Salvador Peace
Commission in Bogota, Columbia.(38) Although the results of
the talks were not released, it continued to indicate the
willingness of the left to negotiate. In October, Guillermo
Ungo, head of the FDR, met with former U.S. Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger and his Central American Study
Commission. Ungo reiterated the left's desire to negotiate a
political settlement between all parties in the conflict.(39)
Regardless of the extent of his sincerety, no serious support
for negotiations was given by the governments of El Salvador
or the United States.
Continuing the Fight
The FMLN started off 1984 with two major successes. On
December 30, 1983 they captured and held for twelve hours El
Salvador's fourth largest army base at El Paraiso in the
province of Chalatenango. Some 100 soldiers were killed in
the mortar barrage and assault and 135 prisoners were taken.
Ater carrying off weapons and ammunition, detroying armored
vehicles and trucks, they set fire to the buildings and blew
up remaining supplies. Several days later the guerillas
released the prisoners to the representatives of the
international Red Cross.
Two days later on January 1, 1984 the guerillas
succeeded in capturing and destroying the Cuscatlan Bridge.
The army troops guarding the bridge fled under the attack and
the 1600 foot suspension bridge was demolished. Since the
FMLN had already demolished the Golden Bridge in October
1981, they had successfully destroyed the only two bridges
linking the eastern third of El Salvador with the rest of the
The five years since the coup of 1979 have seen the left
grow in strength. The numbers of guerillas have increased
and the areas of the country they control are larger. They
have been able to keep the army off balance and appear to
have the acceptance, if not the approval , of many of the
people in the countryside.
Although they undoubtedly receive significant portions
of their arms and equipment from Cuba and other marxist
countries, there can be no doubt that their strength comes
from the dire social, political, and economic conditions in
El Salvador. Improvement by the government in these areas
can only weaken the left, regardless of their supporters and
A significant question is the issue of negotiations.
The left has supported negotiations continuously while both
the Salvadorean and United States governments are opposed.
Although there is mistrust on both sides, it should be
remembered that many leaders of the left are former members
of the 1st and 2nd juntas, people Washington accepted as
being representative of the Salvadorean people.
At this point the strategy of the left appears to be
* Keep up the pressure by causing economic,
communications, and military disruption.
* Pursue a negotiated settlement, separate from the
elections to be held in March 1984.
They appear to be maintaining their strength (5,000 to
10,000 combatants) and morale while wearing down the strength
and morale of the Salvadorean government, military, and
economy. Only United States support has prevented the
victory of the left, thus far, and the left shows no sign of
"When you hear the words of a man telling you to kill,
remember instead the words of God, 'Thou shalt not kill.'
God's law must prevail."
- Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo
Romero y Galdamez, March 23,
Chapter III: The Church
The Medellin Conference
Dating back to the 16th century the Roman Catholic
Church in Latin America had been closely aligned with
political power. The Church was a wealthy landowner, which
gave it economic influence and political power. In the
countryside, this enabled the priest to exert a considerable
degree of influence over the peasants, in many cases more
than the government. In the cities, the clergy cared for the
educational and religious needs of the wealthy and powerful,
ensuring that their position of power was recognized and
respected. However, the 1950's and 60's shook up this status
quo. As the numbers of the poor increased, and their plight
worsened, their belief in and need for the church decreased.
Churches were empty and fewer young men entered the
priesthood. Those that did believed the church was out of
touch and wanted it to be more responsive to the needs of the
poor. Additionally, the bishops were forced to import
priests from Ireland, Spain, and the United States who had
different ideas of the proper role of the church.(1)
In addition to these ongoing evolutions, the heirarchy
of the church began to make some changes. Pope John XXIII
convened the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1962. It
closed three years later under Pope Paul VI. The closing
document specified two new principles that were to have
lasting impact on Latin America.
1. The Church is in and of the world with concerns
well beyond the purely spiritual.
2. The Church is a community of equals by Baptism.
It did not condemn communism per se but rather
condemned certain of its practices with equally
strong critiques of capitalism abuses.(2)
In 1968 bishops from all over Latin America gathered in
Medellin, Columbia for the second Latin-American Episcopal
Conference (CELAM II). There the bishops proclaimed a
"theology of liberation" focused on social justice for the
poor and oppressed.(3) Specifically, the bishops called upon
the church to:
* Defend the rights of the oppressed.
* Promote grass roots organizations for change.
* Denounce unjust actions of world powers that works
against the self determination of weaker nations.
* Exercise a preferential option for the poor.(4)
Christian Base Communities
In El Salvador the objectives of CELAM II were
implemented by the establishment of Christian Base
Communities. Between 1970 and 1976 seven centers were
established for the training of lay preachers and delegates.
Over the course of the decade some 15,000 of these leaders
were trained by the priests and nuns in Bible study, the
liturgy, agriculture, health, and leadership. These
community leders then went forth to speak the word of God as
well as encourage the masses to take responsibility for the
important aspects of their lives.
As these lay leaders went out into the countryside, a
pattern for change in the community began to slowly evolve
over a period of months. There was renewed interest in
religion and the members of the community began to talk to
and work with each other to resolve their problems. The
people felt more pride, confidence, and self worth. Most
importantly, they began to realize that their problems were
not the result of an uncaring God, and that they had to take
control of their own destiny.(5)
These feelings were soon manifested by organizations of
the workers, campaigns for change, and strikes. These
efforts were undoubtedly aided by the clergy who were
following the dictates of CELAM II by making a "preferential
option for the poor." In the parish of Aguilares, for
example, these efforts resulted in the organization by the
Jesuits of the first strike ever in a local sugar mill. They
also encouraged the peasants to join FECCAS, which by the end
of the 1970's was one of the key opposition groups.(6)
Although to the priests their work was pastoral in
nature, to the government it was political. Increasingly,
the military governments of the 1970's became alarmed at the
impact of the church in creating opposition to the
continuance of the status quo.
The War of the Romeros
By late 1976 and early 1977 the Salvadorean government
and right wing increasingly began to blame the church for
"inciting the people to revolt." During this period five
priests were arrested and eighteen expelled from the country.
As momentum gathered, between February 1977 and May 1977,
eight more priests were expelled and ten were exiled. In May
1977 it was common to see fliers circulated in the capital
that read, "Be a Patriot! Kill a Priest."(7)
In the midst of this increasing hostility between the
church and the government, there was a significant change in
the leadership of the Salvadorean church. The aging arch
bishop of El Salvador was retired and replaced by Rome during
the spririg of 1977. The locals in El Salvador wanted the
auxiliary bishop Arturo Rivera Damas selected since he was an
outspoken leader who opposed the government's repression.
However, Rome selected Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero y
Galdamez. Romero had lived most of his priestly life in the
eastern section of the country, and he was considered by the
church establishment to be quiet and noncontroversial. Many
of the priests even felt he would reverse many of the
religious programs that had been started during the past
Three key events, however, probably led to Archbishop
Romero deciding to firmly articulate his favor of social
justice and human rights. The day before Romero was
installed as archbiship, Father Rafael Barahona was picked up
and incarcerated by the government. The day after his
installation, Romero went to the Casa Presidencial and
requested President Molina to release the priest. Molina's
I will release Barahona, but you cannot ask us to
treat them any differently until they go back to
their basic business which is religion. These
priests of yours have become politicians and I hold
you responsible for their behavior. (To this
Romero replied, 'With all due respect, Mr.
President, we take our orders from someone
Also significant in the creation of Archbishop Romero's
change in attitude was the assasination of two priests by the
right wing death squad, the UGB (White Warrior Union).
Father Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit working with FECCAS in the
Aguilares region, was shot on March 12, 1977. Father Alfonso
Navarro, a parish priest, was shot on May 11, 1977 on the
outskirts of San Salvador. These three events, in addition
to the continuing violence against the people, probably
caused the conversion of the Archbishop to a more active
One of Archbishop Romero's first visible acts was his
failure to attend the inauguration of President Romero (no
relation) on July 1, 1977. He stated it was preferential to
risk increasing the hostilities between the church and state
rather than to attend and appear to support a system
characterized by fraud, corruption, and repression.(9)
Because of this atmosphere of hostility, the UGB issued
a manifesto that gave all the Jesuits in El Salvador until
July 20, 1977 to leave the country or be killed. The
approximately 40 Jesuits in the country were very powerful in
that they ran the University of Central America, and were
very active in promoting change. Since most of the Jesuits
in the country were North Americans, this threat angered the
United States Embassy. Diplomatic pressure was put on
President Romero, and the date passed without an
incident.(10) The fact that pressure on the Salvadorean
government resulted in inaction by the UGB supported the
claim by the left that the government controlled and was
responsible for the death squads.
Archbishop Romero soon began to use his sermons from the
cathedral every Sunday to denounce right wing terrorism and
support the popular movements; however, he also denounced the
use of violence by anyone. The entire 8 a.m. mass was
broadcast over YSAX, the church owned radio station. This
weekly mass soon became the most listened to program in the
nation, and was broadcast three times in order to reach the
largest possible audience. In fact, the mass became more
than just a religious event. In addition to Archbishop
Romero's homily he also read the events of the past week,
which included every documented case of persons killed,
arrested, or tortured whether by the right or the left.
Since the excesses by the government and the right were
consistently greater than the left, the Archbishop was seen
as actively promoting the cause of the left. The
effectiveness of these "oral newspapers" and sermons is
evidenced by the fact that between 1977 and 1980 the YSAX
transmitter or antenna was bombed 10 times.(11)
In November 1978 a priest was killed in combat alongside
guerillas of the FPL. The archbishop was shocked, and the
incident caused him to consider the question of revolutionary
violence. Archbishop Romero attended the funeral of Father
Ernesto Barrera and later said:
When a dictatorship seriously violates human rights
and attacks the common good of the nation, when it
becomes unbearable and closes all channels of
dialogue, of understanding, of rationality, when
this happens, the church speaks of the legitimate
right of insurrectional violence.(12)
Archbishop Romero's actions increasingly put him at odds
with President Romero and the government; this period has
been called "The War of the Romero's." The church paid the
price for their opposition as a total of 7 priests were
killed between 1977 and 1979 by either the security forces or
Asssasination of the Archbishop
On October 15, 1979 a bloodless coup overthrough
President Romero and his government. In its place a
Revolutionary Governing Junta was formed consisting of
representatives from the left, middle, and right. That
Archbishop Romero was seen as a powerful force in the country
is evidenced by the fact that several liberals consulted him
before agreeing to join the new government.(14) The
archbishop agreed with reservations to support the junta, but
he expressed the doubts of many when he said:
We recognize the junta's good will, but this
government can only deserve the confidence and
collaboration of the people when it shows that its
beautiful promises are not dead letters, but rather
real hope that a new era has begun for our
The credibility of the new government failed quickly as
government forces continued to shoot demonstrators and
repress the peasants. On January 6, 1980 the Archbishop
called on the people to "preserve the liberation process" by
backing the popular organizations. On January 9 a second
junta replaced the failed first one, with many of the left
resigning.(16) By February, the second junta was failing and
on February 17 Romero denounced the "unscrupulous military"
and called on the Christian Democrats to resign from the
junta, claiming their "presence simply covered the repressive
character of this government, especially abroad."(17) He
also wrote a letter to U.S. President Carter opposing aid to
the junta, especially military aid. He said that the
government had resorted to repression and violence, causing
increased deaths than the previous regimes.(18) On March 3,
1980 the second junta failed and a third was created, but
with no change in repressive policies.
On Sunday, March 23, 1980 the Archbishop said his
regular Sunday mass which was carried over YSAX for the first
time since the radio station had been bombed on February 18.
after his sermon he told about the events of the week,
finishing with a special message to the soldiers, national
guardsmen, and police, whom he referred to as "peasants in
The campesinos you kill are your own brothers and
sisters...When you hear the words of a man telling
you to kill, remember instead the words of God,
'Thou shalt not kill.' God's law must prevail. No
soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the
law of God.(19)
The next day at daily mass, after giving the sermon, the
Archbishop raised his hands and said, "Let us pray." He then
collapsed, shot down by a gun with a silencer. He died
instantly. The junta ordered three days national mourning
and vowed to track down the killers. However, the judge put
in charge of the investigation was soon the victim of an
assasination attempt himself, and he fled the country. The
killers have not been named.(20)
Although no group claimed responsihility for the
assasination of the Archbishop, it was widely believed that a
right wing death squad such as the UGB was responsible. On
March 30 approximately 30 more people were killed at the
funeral service for Romero.(21) During the service,
thousands of Salvadoreans were outside the cathedral due to
lack of space inside. After bombs went off and shots were
fired many fled into the cathedral. Although the government
denied any involvement by the security forces, many foreign
delegates to the funeral claimed the bombs and shots had come
from the National Palace.(22)
In Search of Unity
In the period immediately following Archbishop Romero's
death the church continued to be a target of the security
forces and right wing groups. In November of 1980 uniformed
troops ransacked the offices of Orientacion, the archdiocese
newspaper. They also destroyed the equipment and offices of
YSAX next door.(23) On December 2, 1980 three Roman Catholic
nuns and one female lay missionary were raped and executed by
national guardsmen as the women drove from the airport to San
Salvador.(24) By June 1981, ten priests and one seminarian
had been killied and 60 priests expelled or exiled over the
period of the previous four years. The Jesuits' house in San
Salvador had been sprayed with bullets or bombed on three
Yet in the midst of this violence the church began to
seek unity and move toward a more centrist position. When
the Vatican appointed Bishop Rivera y Damas as Apostolic
Delegate and acting archbishop after Romero's death, it was
viewed as a signal for him to seek unification in the church.
Although he had a reputation for being very progressive.
Damas moved to a more centrist position and criticized
excesses of both sides.(26)
In December of 1980 Acting Archbishop Damas denounced
U.S. military aid for facilitating "repression against the
people and persecution of the church."(27) In May 1981 in a
regular Sunday sermon he stated the left, the right, the
government junta, and the army are all struggling for power
and attempting to implement their ideology. "While these
parties fight," he said, "the people are suffering and
shedding their blood." Even handed criticisms of both the
left and the right seemed to be working as the government
agreed to the reopening of Orientacion and radio YSAX and
attacks against the clergy diminished. Further evidence of
his centrist position was evidenced by the FMLN's Radio
Venceremos criticizing the Acting Archbishop for turning away
from his predecessor's polices.(28)
During 1982 Acting Archbishop Damas continued his even
handed treatment of the left and right. He continually
pressed the government to bring the murderers of the four
churchwomen to trial, while at the same time condeming all
acts of political violence. He urged all the parties
concerned to negotiate a settlement to end the violence.
This approach apparently was what the Vatican desired because
in March 1983 the Pope announced that Damas would be elevated
to the position of Archbishop of El Salvador. After assuming
his duties the archbishop asked all the Salvadorean people to
listen to Pope John Paul II who had urged them to consider
political reconciliation and peace.
The centrist position of Archbishop Damas appears to be
the one supported at many levels in the church. In addition
to the Vatican, the United States Catholic Conference has
urged President Reagan to undertake a significant policy
shift on El Salvador that would lead to a negotiated
The church has historically been a powerful force in El
Salvador and it will continue to be so in the future.
Although it has adopted a centrist position publically, there
can be little doubt that the priests, nuns, and missionaires
will continue to press to improve the plight of the poor.
They will pursue the betterment of the poor by putting
political pressure on the government for land reform,
literacy, and better health care. Unless the government and
the oligarchy make a commitment to improve the plight of the
poor, actions by the clergy will inevitably build up
pressures that again portray the church as being aligned with
the left in opposition to the government and the right.
"We are a government elected by the people, I don't have the
right to discuss power sharing."
- Statement by El Salvaodr
Provisional President Magana
to the U.S. Press on June 18,
Chapter IV: The Government
The First Junta
After the October 15, 1979 bloodless coup, there was
optimism in El Salvador because of the broad political
representation on the five man junta.
* Roman Mayorga Quiroz--the progressive director of the
Jesuit University, UCA.
* Guillermo Ungo--the intellectual head of MNR who would
represent the interests of the popular forces (BPR,
* Mario Andino--the manager of the Phelps Dodge
subsidiary, who would represent ANEP and private
* Colonel Adolfo Majano--the reform minded Colonel with
a conscience; he represented the young officers who
had conducted the coup.
* Colonel Jaime Abdul Gutierrez--the head of the
Salvadorean military school, who represented the more
conservative elements of the armed forces.
There was also broad political representation in the
* Luis Nelson Segouia--the minister of justice,
* Manuel Hinds--the economics minister, represented ANEP
* Hector Dada Hirezi--the foreign minister, represented
* Salvador Samoyoa--the minister of education,
represented the PDC
* Ruben Zamora Rivas--the minister of the presidency,
represented the PDC
* Mario Zamora Rivas--the attorney general, represented
* Gabriel Gallegos Valdes--the minister of labor,
represented the communist UDN
* Enrique Alvarez Cordova--the minister of agriculture,
was not politically aligned, but supported land
reform. Cordova was a millionaire dairy farmer who
had served as minister of agriculture for Presidents
Rivera and Molina, only to resign at their failure to
enact reforms. His acceptance to this post again
caused him to be denounced by the oligarchy as a
traitor to his class.(1)
The young military officers who had precipitated the
coup created a permanent independent body to ensure the junta
acted properly in the direction of needed reforms. Known as
the Permanent Council of the Armed Forces (COPEFA), it served
as the watchdog of the reform movement.
Quickly however, the strength of the junta was tested.
The BPR had occupied five factories in San Salvador several
weeks before the coup in order to push for wage increases.
On October 16, 1979--the day after the coup--security forces
and army troops attacked the factories. Eighteen people were
killed and 78 people were arrested. Colonel Majano went to
police headquarters and ordered the release of the prisoners,
but the credibility of the new government had already been
damaged. The following day the Army attacked a suburb of San
Salvador that was held by Popular Forces. Armored vehicles
and straffing helicopters soon left 24 dead. Then in a
published report, Amnesty International estimated more than
100 people were killed the first week of the new junta.(2)
It had quickly become apparent that both the popular forces
and the armed forces were intransigent and did not trust each
other. This attitude continued to cause problems for the
Meanwhile the junta was trying to enact some reforms. A
commission was established to investigate the whereabouts of
"the disappeared." Although a few were found alive many mass
graves were found with bodies marked by torture.(3) Several
weeks later the government was announced that all of the
names on a list of 276 people should be presumed to have died
in custody of the security forces. No legal steps were taken
to punish those responsible for the torture and murders, and
this brought on demonstrations by the Popular Forces.(4) It
had quickly become apparent that the junta would not follow
through on the reforms planned by the young officers who had
enacted the coup.
The junta ordered a 30% increase in minimum wages for
field workers, but many of the landowners ignored this. The
campesinos then struck, which brought on repression from the
security forces. Each step the junta took seemed to fail
before being implemented. Some 60 members of the Army and
Security Forces were retired because of believed connections
to the right wing death squads and because they were not
controllable by the Army. ORDEN was formally prohibited by
law, but soon reappeared as the Frente Democratico
Nacionalista (FDN---National Democratic Front). No arms were
confiscated from the thousands of members of ORDEN, and they
continued to represent the right in acts of repression
against the left.
Perhaps the action that sealed the fate of the first
junta was the act of Colonel Gutierrez unilaterally
appointing Colonel Jose Guillermo Garcia, the commander of
the garrison at San Vicente, as minister of defense.(5)
Garcia had been General Romero's chief of communications at
ANTEL (National Telecommunications Agency), a post that was
widely believed to be both the center for clandestine
intelligence services, and connected with the death
squads.(6) Although the young officers opposed this
nomination, they were unable to block it. The fact that the
junta accepted this action demonstrated its inability to deal
with the intransigence of the military.
The popular forces continued to demonstrate and the
security forces continued to retaliate. By the end of 1979
approximately 350 people had been killed by the armed forces
since the junta took over.(7) The economy was in shambles.
The GNP had fallen 3.5% in 1979, there was massive capital
flight, and the balance of payments was severely out of
On December 26 Garcia arrived uninvited at a cabinet
meeting. A screaming match ensued with Garcia telling the
ministers their reforms were going too far. To this the
ministers told Garcia that it was none of his or the military
high command's business. (In a country that had had military
rule for 50 years this was strong language.)(8)
On December 28 the justices of the Supreme Court, the
heads of state agencies, and 11 of 12 cabinet members wrote a
letter to COPEFA. The letter said the minister of defense
and other military commanders were betraying the goals of the
military youth movement. It asked for a dialogue between the
government, COPEFA, and the popular forces to settle
disputes.(9) By this time however, it had become apparent
that the young military had been politically naive. They did
not have any power over the junta short of the possibility of
another coup. On the other hand, Colonel Gutierrez (who was
very conservative and had not been supportive of the coup
until he saw the opportunity to be on the junta) had a
position of tremendous power.
On December 29, the leftist members of the junta decided
to force the issue. Hector Dada publicly read a list of
demands over the radio, all related to the fact that the army
must accept its orders, directions, and control from the
junta.(10) Five government officials, including the
ministers of education and agriculture, submitted their
On January 2, 1980 Archbishop Romero brought the
military and civilian leaders together at his residence, the
seminary of San Jose de la Montana. It was to be a final
effort to save the junta. The meeting lasted all day and
broke up with very grim faces.(12) On January 3, 1980 the
two leftists on the junta, Ungo and Mayorga, both resigned.
All the remaining members of the cabinet, with the exception
of minister of the presidency Zamora and minister of defense
Garcia, also resigned. The first junta and the government
The Second Junta
Shortly after the collapse of the first junta, the
Christian Democrats stepped in to stabilize the government.
On January 4, 1980 Rubin Zamora, who had refused to resign as
minister of the presidency, spoke on the radio. He claimed
that the crisis was normal and that the government couldn't
change overnight. He stated that the army had agreed to work
with the PDC toward implementing reforms.(14)
In fact, Jose Napoleon Duarte, the long exiled PDC
leader, had returned from Caracas on October 26, 1979.
Although he was met at the airport by 30,000 cheering
followers, there was at least that many demonstrators against
Duarte from the popular forces. Many foreign observers had
assumed Duarte and the PDC represented the majority of
Salvadoreans in their struggle against economic oppression
and military dictators. It soon became clear that Duarte and
the PDC had waited too long to bring about change. Many
people had turned to the popular organizations to change the
government and improve their plight. The speed with which
Zamora made his radio broadcast left little doubt that the
PDC had been maneuvering behind the scenes with the army to
negotiate themselves into power. The resignations of the PDC
members from the first junta were then seen as purely a
Many Salvadoreans viewed Duarte and the PDC as selling
out their principals and tricking Ungo and Mayorga into
resigning. Others saw the actions by the PDC during this
governmental crisis as a sincere effort to bring about
stability by returning the army and security forces to their
previous position of being unchallenged.(15)
On January 9, a second junta was announced. It had the
same two military members, Colonels Majano and Gutierrez,
plus three civilians.
* Jose Ramon Avalos Navarrette--a politically nonaligned
San Salvador Physician
* Antonio Morales Erlich--the secretary general of the
* Hector Dada--the PDC member from the previous
Although it is inconceivable that Duarte was not key in
the effort by the PDC to achieve a greater share of power, he
did not join the junta. Instead Duarte flew to Guatemala
where he was very visible and gave many interviews. He
stated that the first junta had failed because it had tried
to undertake reforms before restoring political democracy and
holding elections. He also said the PDC was the only means
left to unify the country and rally the people because 20
years of work by the party had built up trust by the people.
Most observers felt Duarte was simply waiting for
presidential elections to be held because he did not want to
be tainted by the manipulations which formed the second
Although the PDC did receive encouragement from its
sister parties in Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Europe, and the
Carter Administration in Washington, problems worsened at
home.(18) Former Major Roberto D'Aubuissan tried to form a
coup, but this failed. The army and security forces con-
tinued to use violence and murder to break up demonstrations
by the popular forces. The violence came to a head on
February 22, 1980 when PDC leader Mario Zamora (attorney
general during the first junta) was meeting at his house with
Napoleon Duarte and Hector Dada. They were raided by masked
members of the UGB who singeled out Zamora, took him into the
bathroom, and shot him. As a result Ruben Zamora, brother of
Mario, and Hector Dada resigned from the PDC and the
government. They criticized the government for being unable
to even protect its members. They also criticized the
government for failing to arrest former Major D'Aubuissan who
had publicly declared on TV that Mario Zamora was working for
the FPL.(19) By March 3, 1980 the second junta had fallen.
The Third Junta
The loss of Hector Dada was a crushing blow to the PDC
and the government. He was a leading intellectual, a
resilient leader, and was very respected. This chaos in the
government caused Duarte to change his plans and he took
Dada's place on the junta on March 3, 1980.(20) The third
junta, seeing the continuing violence, growing opposition by
the popular forces, and hearing rumors of another coup,
quickly began the long awaited reform. On March 6, 1980 they
announced a three phased land reform program under the
direction of the U.S. State Department and the American
Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), an affiliate of
the AFL-CIO.(21) They announced that phase I was the seizure
of 25% of all arable land, some 376 plantations belonging to
244 owners; a total of almost half a million acres. All
plots of land greater than 1235 acres were subject to the
seizure. Phase II was the seizure of medium sized plots of
land between 370 and 1235 acres. Phase III was to turn over
to each of those peasants renting land, 2.25 acres.(22)
The seized land was to be paid for with 25% cash and the
remainder in government bonds maturing over 25 years. The
estates seized were to be maintained as agricultural units by
peasant organizations. Peasant families would receive
individual lots, but would be encouraged to farm in
cooperation with other families, sharing farm equipment and
machinery that had been seized. The government also
nationalized all Salvadorean owned banks. The government
would own 51% of stock and encourage the granting of
industrial development and agricultural loans.
The agency tasked with managing the land reform program
was the Instituto Salvadoreno de Transfomacion Agraria
(ISTA). It was headed by peasant leader Rodolfo Viera and
ISTA general manager Leonel Gomez Vides.(23) On March 7,
1980 the junta declared a state of seiqe to implement phase I
of the reform. The armed forces were sent into the
countryside to occupy estates, handle land lord resistance,
and assist in the transfer of the land. This state of seige
allowed the police to arrest people and search premises
without warrants. It also prohibited street rallies and
demonstrations and imposed strict press censorship. As usual
there was corruption, with the security forces rewarding
their ORDEN supporters and punishing the opposition. Ten
days after the reform went into effect so much violence had
occurred in the countryside that BPR called a strike and many
lands were seized. ISTA then became more active, tried to do
a better job, and the army was withdrawn.
Due to the problems in implementing phase I, the junta
on April 29 announced it was skipping phase II and beginning
phase III. Known as "land to the tiller," 10% of all the
farm land would be turned over to tenant farmers and
sharecroppers. Each renter would receive 2.25 acres.
Although it had been estimated that each peasant family of
six people required a minimum of 17 acres in order to be
selfsufficient, it was hoped that phase III would fulfill an
age old dream. Each peasant would own his own plot of land.
Implementing phase III appeared to be a smart move by the
* It avoided a confrontation with the powerful coffee
growers who owned most of the medium sized estates
* They had few liabilities since phase III lands were of
marginal value or they wouldn't have been rented.(24)
In June 1980 Duarte announced the start of a massive
emergency public works project that would cost $900 million
and create 50,000 jobs. It was to be financed by loans and
credits from the United States, Venezuela, the International
Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank.(25)
Despite these efforts by Duarte and others to move ahead with
land reform and improved industrialization, increasing
violence overshadowed any progress. The PDC's failure to
attempt to restrain the armed forces allowed them to continue
and increase repression.
On March 24, 1980 Archbishop Romero was assasinated and
one week later 30 people were killed at his funeral.(26) On
March 26 undersecretary of agriculture Jorge Alberto
Villacorta resigned his position after witnessing uniformed
members of the security forces shoot the directors of an ISTA
sponsored self management group.
On April 30 there was a second coup attempt by Major
D'Aubuissan. Colonel Majano ordered his arrest and on May 8
D'Abuissan was captured 10 miles from the capital along with
several co-conspirators. He had in his position a briefcase
full of incriminating documents concerning the coup attempt
and other right wing activities.(27) The very next day the
entire officer corps of the armed forces gathered, some 700
people, and voted to demote Majano from his position as
commander-in-chief. In his place they elected Colonel
Gutierrez. This was an unprecedented action because the
position was not an elective post. This having been
accomplished, the armed forces were freed from any moderating
or restraining influence. On May 13, Major D'Aubuissan and
his co-conspirators were released due to lack of evidence,
and no charges were ever brought. On September 1, the
military "orders of the month" were published and all of
Majano's supporters from the 1979 coup were tranferred to
insignificant posts or out of the country.(28)
After each of the February and April coup attempts by
D'Aubuissan, the PDC threatened to resign from the junta and
the cabinet if the army didn't take action against him.
However, in both cases the army refused to take action and
the PDC did not resign. Actions like this gave a clear
signal to the military that they could do whatever they
wanted and the PDC would not intervene.
May 14, 1980 saw the Sumpul River Massacre. The Army,
joined by ORDEN, launched a sweep in the mountains of
Chalatenango Province. Every one in the area was assumed to
be a guerilla, and they were driven to the Sumpul River which
borders Honduras. With the Honduran soldiers refusing to
allow peasants to exit the river on Honduran soil, the
Salvadorean soldiers stood on the river banks and fired.
Women were tortured and children were thrown in the air for
target practice. Althouqh both governments denied the
action, eyewitnesses claimed at least 600 people were
massacred.(29) On June 26 the army invaded the campus of
National University with helicopters, tanks, and 900 troops.
In two hours they took over the campus and killed 50
students. Although the government had claimed it was a
training ground and arsenal for leftist guerillas, no weapons
were found.(30) The University was closed, and has not been
reopened. November 27 saw 200 soldiers and police surround
the Jesuit high school in San Salvador where key leaders of
the FDR were meeting. Several dozen people were taken away
at gun point and a few hours later five key leaders of the
left showed up dead after being tortured. The junta denied
all knowledge, but it is hard to imagine that number of
armed, uniformed rightists being involved without the
government or armed forces having some knowledge.(31)
All this violence placed increased international
attention on the junta and its inability to control the
military and security forces. The biggest blow came on
December 3, 1980 when three nuns and one female Catholic lay
worker were brutally raped, tortured, and murdered. On
December 7 Colonel Majano resigned from the junta because of
the lack of restraint of the military forces. He was offered
the attache post in Madrid, which was basically political
exile. He declined and went into hiding. The third junta
Provisional President Duarte
Colonel Majano's resignation brougnt increased pressure
to bring the military under civilian control. After several
days of negotiations between the Army and Christian
Democrats, a new government was announced on December 13,
1980. The army had agreed there should be a civilian
provisional president. Under the terms of the compromise a
four member junta would be formed, with Duarte as Provisional
President. Colonel Gutierrez would be the Vice-President and
Commander-in-Chief of Military Forces. Colonel Garcia would
continue to serve as Defense Minister. Morales Ehrlich
remained as the fourth member of the junta and Duartes
Duarte was sworn in on December 21, 1980 in a formal
ceremony full of the requisite degree of pomp. Although he
was the first civilian president in 50 years, he had no real
power. Gutierrez and Garcia still controlled the army, and
they were the most powerful force in the country.(33)
The year of 1981 saw increased violence by both sides of
the political spectrum. On January 3, 1981 while dining at
the San Salvador Sheraton, Rodolfo Viera, the director of
ISTA and two North American Advisors, Mark Pearlman and
Michael Hammer of AIFLD, were assasinated. Viera was a very
charismatic leader who had brought great credibility to the
land reform program. These deaths were attributed to the
right, even by Provisional President Duarte. The general
manager of ISTA, Gomez Vides, was to have attended the
dinner, but failed to receive the invitation. On the 14th he
was arrested, accused of being a guerilla, and released.
Shortly after his release two trucks with death squads came
to his house, but he miraculously escaped. He went into
exile and the land reform program came to a halt.(34)
Meanwhile, the Left launched their "final offensive."
Although the Army finally succeeded in beating back the
offensive, the guerillas succeeded in keeping the army off
balance virtually the entire year. Without United States
military and economic assistance, however, the issue might
have been in doubt.
In March Duarte named an electoral committee to prepare
for free elections in 1982. He promised that independent
observers could monitor the voting and that the results of
the elections would be respected. In July, registration was
opened up for political parties to participate in the
upcoming elections. In September, the president of the
Central Electons Council, Jorge Bustamante, publicly
recognized the FDR as a representative political force and
invited them to participate. However, he refused to
recognize the FMLN, stating it was a group that "sowed
terrorism, hatred, and violence." When that failed, the MNR
and PSC were invited to leave the FDR and take part in the
elections. They were told they could campaign by long
distance from Guatemala using radio or TV if they were afraid
to enter El Salvador.
The left chose not to campaign for several reasons. In
addition to the new found organization and unity of the left
was the threat of rightist violence. Over 60 Christian
Democrat mayors and other office holders had been assasinated
during the previous year. If the government could not
guarantee the safety of the parties in the government, it
surely could not guarantee the safety of a party in
All these efforts at reform met with mixed approval.
The implementaton of land reform and promised elections
seemed to take away one of th guerilla's main causes. In
return, 1981 saw them change from a program of demonstrations
and strikes to attacking economic targets that would destroy
the country's economy. Meanwhile, the right claimed reform
had gone too far and was resisting the land reform and
stepping up its rhetoric. The right wing death squads
continued to assasinate those who opposed the traditional
role of the oligarchy. By July 1981 Duarte called
conservative businessmen trying to roll back limited land
reform and nationalization of banks the biggest threat to the
government. He announced, "The private sector is in its
By the fall of 1981 seven political parties had
registered for the election. All were on the right side of
the political spectrum. The four major ones were:
* PDC--lead by Duarte, this was the closest party to a
* PCN--The Party of National Concilation was considered
to be the PDC's leading competition. However,
that perspective changed when on January 27, 1982
PCN Secretary General Rodriguez Gonzalez was
assasinated in front of the PCN headquarters.
The FMLN was never accused of the assasination,
and it was assumed that right wing extremists
* AD--The Democratic Action Party was known as the
Rotary Club of the oligarchy's lawyers. These
were the owners of medium sized farms and
businesses, middle class business managers, and
professionals who had supported phase I of land
reform. They opposed further reform and wanted
nationalized banks and companies returned to the
*ARENA--The National Republican Alliance was formed by
Major D'Aubuissan. His campaign slogan was "El
Salvador will be the tomb of the reds." He
promised if his party won, the FMLN would be
annihilated within three months.(37)
While the country prepared for elections, there were
continuing failures of the governing junta. In December 1981
the Salvadorean Communal Union (UCS--a peasant organization
assisting with the government land reform program) completed
a report which said the land reform effort was failing. Over
90 UCS officials, leaders, and beneficiaries of land reform
had died at the hands of the security forces and land owners.
Additionally, the security forces had assisted in the
eviction of over 25,000 peasants from their property.
Meanwhile the armed forces went on the offensive against
the left in Morazan Province. In a large sweep of 4500
troops, the army attempted to trap the FMLN between
Salvadorean troops moving up from the south and Honduran
troops preventing any movement to the north. One of the
government's major objectives was to destroy Radio
Venceremos, the querilla radio station which had been
broadcasting uninterrupted for a year. On December 14 the
government announced that the radio station had been
destroyed. On December 26, however, Radio Venceremos began
regular broadcasts again. In addition to failing to destroy
Radio Venceremos the army failed to trap the FMLN. Not only
were they able to avoid capture, but they evacuated civilians
who lived in the area. Many civilians stayed because they
were politically neutral and they didn't think the army would
harm them. The Army however, assumed all people in the area
to be leftists, and over 500 bodies were found after the army
withdrew.(38) This event clearly pointed out the two
extremes in El Salvador. The guerillas' ability to outlast
and outmaneuver the government's forces, and the government's
use of excessive violence against anyone remotely suspected
of supporting the left.
The Constituent Assembly
In March 1982 the Salvadoreans voted in unexpectedly
large numbers. Approximately 1.5 million ballots were cast
in what was praised by the United States and other
international observers as a show of democracy. Some 80% of
the eligible voters participated, giving the majority of
their votes to Duarte's Christian Democrataic Party.
It surprised both Washington and the international
community that so many votes went to candidates of the right.
It can only be surmised that many Salvadoreans preferred the
right's brand of repression and stability over continued
turmoil from the growing power of the left. The results of
the election are shown below:
Click here to view image
Duarte was unable to form a majority coalition, and
within a few days the other parties had united to form a
right wing coalition. They elected D'Aubuissan President of
the Constituent Assembly and sought to keep the PDC
completely out of power. All the parties to the right of the
PDC had pledged to de-nationalize the banks and either halt
or reverse the partially implemented land reform program.(40)
This was the impetus which D'Aubuissan now sought to give the
Salvadorean government. He successfully kept the PDC from
having any positions on the nine member Assembly directorate.
Largely due to pressure from the Salvadorean military,
who feared the cutoff of United States economic and military
aid if D'Aubuissan became too powerful, a compromise choice
was selected as new Provisional President. Doctor Alvaro
Alfredo Magana Borja, a successful businessmen with no long
term political aspirations, was sworn in on May 2, 1982.
Although Magana was seen as a moderate and he gave equal
repesentation in the new cabinet to the three major political
parties, he constantly battled with the right wing coalition
of the constitutent assembly.
As the constituent assembly moved quickly to halt the
land reform program, it came under increasing pressure from
the United States and Provisional President Magana. This led
D'Aubuissan to say publicly in June 1982 that his people
should "work toward paying off the country's debt with
dignity rather than submit to the continued demands of the
United States Congress."
On August 3, 1982 an agreement which had been drawn up
by Magana was signed by representatives of the five parties
holding seats in the constituent assembly. Known as the
Apaneca pact, it was an agreement to work toward a cohesive
political solution to El Salvador's problems. Three separate
commissions were established:
* A political commission to set a timetable for
municipal and presidential elections, to oversee the
post election transfer of power, and to oversee the
continuation of refoms
* A human rights commission
* A peace commission to draft an amnesty proposal(41)
Tension continued between Magana and D'Aubuissan on the
implementing of the Apaneca Pact, manipulation of the
judicial system, and the issue of government negotiations
with the left. Tension also arose between D'Aubuissan and
Defense Minister Garcia over the issue of control of the
military. These tensions came to a head in January 1983 and
lead to a significant shift in the orientation of the
On January 27 D'Aubuissan attempted to delay a vote
ratifying the new Minister of Health. He left the chamber
along with the other ARENA deputies and threatened to resign
if the assembly took the vote in his absence. The remaining
deputies ratified the appointment, 39 votes to none in the
first session not called by the Assembly's president. They
then adopted a procedural amendment which allowed the
Assembly to convene if called by any two of the nine members
of the Assembly's directorate. Under the lead of the
Christian Democrats, the assembly then formed a moderate
coalition holding a one vote majority. The government had
swung to the right, but now returned to a more centrist
During the second half of 1982 while the political
parties jockeyed for position in their interpretation of the
results of the elections, the Army went on the offense.
Between May and December, the Army averaged three offensives
per month against the insurgents, sending in from 1500 to
4500 troops in each effort. Although many of their efforts
were in Chalatenango and Morazan Province, their main target
was Guazapa Volcano, 26 km north of San Salvador. Guazapa
had been an FMLN stronghold since 1980, and the army
attempted eight times during 1982 to capture this vital
target. They failed, however, and the biggest result of all
these offensives were thousands of refugees and hundreds of
dead peasants whom the army accused of being guerilla
Whereas the army very seldom took any prisoners, the
FMLN frequently took captives. Some were stripped of
weapons, equipment, and clothing and then released. Others
were turned over periodically to the International Committee
of the Red Cross. Typically the prisoners were well treated.
It can be surmised that the capture and release of prisoners,
such as the 243 soldiers turned over in September, was an
attempt to encourage government troops to surrender rather
than risk death by continuing to fight.(42) Additionally,
the return of these captured prisoners had a debilitating and
demoralizing effect on their fellow soldiers.
Problems in the Military Hierarchy
Many members of the Salvadorean military had been
critical of defense minister Garcia and his inability to take
the required actions to defeat the FMLN. In response to
these and other criticisms, on January 5, 1983 General Garcia
issued orders transferring Lt. Colonel Sigifredo Ochoa Perez
to military attache in Uruguay. Lt. Colonel Ochoa had been
commander of the garrison at Sensuntepeque in Cabanas.
Although his province bordered three war zones, he had been
successful in keeping the war out of his province. He was
seen by U.S. military advisors and international observers as
one of the few really effective top military commanders in El
In response to the transfer order Lt. Colonel Ochoa put
his troops on full alert and refused the order. He stated
that the Uruguay post was "diplomatic exile" and said
Garcia's action was caused by "professional jealousy." Under
pressure from Provisional President Magana, Lt. Colonel Ochoa
resigned his command on January 12, 1983. Magana described
the event as "a truely lamentable incident," and did not
punish Lt. Colonel Ochoa or any of his men. In fact, the
transfer order was subsequently voided and Lt. Colonel Ochoa
was appointed defense attache at the embassy in
Washington.(44) The result of the entire episode served to
weaken Garcia's position as Defense Minister.
The military continued to suffer a series of setbacks.
In February the FMLN succeeded in seizing and occupying for
three days the city of Berlin. This city of 35,000 was the
largest city to date seized by the guerillas.(45) On March
30, elements of the "elite" Belloso Battalion were ambushed
in Morazan Province, suffering over 100 casualties. This
battalion was trained at Ft. Bragg and was supposed to be El
Salvador's best.(46) Incidents such as these and the overall
poor performance of the Salvadorean military caused increased
criticism of Garcia both at home and abroad. On March 22,
Commander of the Air Force Juan Rafael Bustillo called for
Garcia's resignation. On April 14 he told President Magana
that he and the Air Force would no longer obey Garcia's
orders. As a result General Garcia finally resigned on
April 18 and was replaced by General Carlos Eugenio Vides
Casanova, the director of the National Guard since 1979.
These moves were seen as a move to the right by the military
since Casanova was connected with the repressive National
Guard and had allegedly been part of a cover up in the murder
of the four church women.(47)
The National Campaign Plan
In an attempt to regain the initiative from the FMLN, in
June the government launched a National Campaign Plan.
Previously they had used large scale sweeps through guerilla
controlled areas, which lost many lives. They now attempted
a policy of rural pacification. In addition to military
efforts to defeat the guerillas, there were instituted
redevelopment plans which restored local economic and
communications installations and protected agricultural
production.(48) In June the Army moved against the
guerrillas in San Vicente and as usual the FMLN withdrew and
avoided direct confrontation. This time, however, the army
stayed in the area. In July, the army attempted to repeat
this procedure in Usulutan. This time, however, the
guerillas did not entirely withdraw. They began a series of
ambushes of recon platoons and some counterattacks. It
appeared that the Nationial Campaign Plan would take a long
time to implement, and at this point was less than a complete
On August 11, 1983 Defense Minister Vides announced the
Army's combat performance record during the 12 month period
ending June 30, 1983. A total of 2,292 government troops
were fatalities, with 4,195 wounded and 328 missing.
Although these figures were double the previous year, he
expressed confidence in the new campaign plan and the ability
of the armed forces to combat subversion.
In addition to efforts at home, the Salvadorean military
attempted to get international support. On July 7, the
United States sent a 25 member military medical team to El
Salvador to train the soldiers in first aid and improve the
Army's evacuation system for the wounded. On October 1 the
Defense ministers of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador
agreed to revive the Central American Defense Council. This
council, which had previously included Nicaragua, was formed
in 1965 but had been defunct since 1969 because of the
"Soccer War." The ministers agreed to jointly use their
armies for the "defense of democracy" against
Despite these moves, militarily the situation in El
Salvador approached a stalemate. The total casualties of
6815 troops was 20% of the total 33,000 member military
establishment (armed and security forces). While the
guerillas succeeded in destroying important bridges and power
stations, the army was seen as largely ineffective. Only its
heavier equipment and aviation assets enabled the army to
stalemate the military situation. Meanwhile, its morale
continued to suffer and casualties continued to mount.
Preparing For Elections
On March 3 the constituent assembly narrowly voted to
extend for 10 months the "land to the tiller" portion of the
land reform program. Of the estimated 120,000 peasants
eligible, only 52,000 had sought titles by the end of 1982.
This was believed to be due to fear of reprisals and the fact
that almost 5000 peasants had been evicted from the land they
were in the process of buying.
On May 4 the constituent assembly overwhelmingly voted
for the "Amnesty Law." The law allowed for amnesty of all
guerillas and their families if they would surrender. This
law was issued by the same government that allowed murder and
torture and had never punished one of their own for these
acts. For these and other reasons the left never took the
proposal seriously. It was largely ineffective, and by the
end of July only 102 "guerillas" had surrendered, mostly,
women and children. The constitutent assembly voted a one
month extension, but clearly this attempt was a failure.(50)
On June 17 and 18, Provisional President Magana traveled
to Washington and met with President Reagan and members of
the United States Congress. He stated that his country was
fighting for survival and he appealed for aid. He was
raising military pay from $60 per month to $120 per month to
attempt to keep more trained troops in the army. He also
said his government would rather:
lose U.S. econmic and military aid than comply with
congressional stipulations making aid conditional
on his government holding open ended talks with the
rebels. We are a government elected by the people,
I don't have the right to discuss power
There were some signs that the Salvadorean legal system
might finally be making some progress. On August 24 a
criminal court sentenced the commander of a Civil Defense
Squad to 30 years in prison for murdering a seminary student
in 1981. This was the first time since the war began in 1979
that a member of the military had been convicted of a human
rights violation. On August 25 the Salvadorean Police
arrested a member of the FPL for participating in the murder
of U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Albert A. Schaufelberger, III. On
October 28, the five National Guardsmen accused in the 1980
murder of four U.S. church women were finally ordered to
Throughout the September through November period of 1983
there was increased activities by the right wing death
squads. In an effort to curb these abuses, but mostly to
please Washington, a tremendous shakeup in the security
forces was announced on November 26. Twenty-one high ranking
military and security forces were transferred in an attempt
to break up the chain of personnel involved in death squad
activity.(52) Perhaps the biggest event transpired was on
November 22 when the constituent assembly voted to fix the
date of March 25, 1984 as the day of the presidential
The new year started poorly for the government as the
guerillas successfully destroyed the quarter mile long
Cuscatlan suspension bridge over the Lempa River, the major
link between the country's four eastern provinces and the
central portion of the country. The FMLN also successfully
overran the country's fourth largest army base in El Paraiso
in Chalatenanao. These setbacks demonstrated the poor
morale, effectiveness, and leadership of the Salvadorean army
after four years of combat. Nevertheless, the government
announced it would remain in power and hoped for a strong
showing in the 1984 Presidential Elections.
The years since the coup of 1979 have served to
demonstrate the inability of the government to control the
destiny of the country. The left continues to occupy large
areas of the countryside, and efforts to destroy the
guerillas in these areas have been failures. Although the
army has increased in size, there has been no change in its
effectiveness. The acts of violence by the government
against peasants in or near guerilla controlled areas
undoubtedly produces new recruits for the left.
At the same time, efforts by the government to improve
the conditions for the poor have been, at best, only
partially successful. The land reform program has promise
but needs to be carried out without footdragging and
Whatever the results of the 1984 elections, it must be
realized that the army is the true source of power in the
country. Their actions will largely determine the future of
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Chapter V: The Right
El Salvador has long been a land of contrasts. A
relatively small group of wealthy land owners and businessmen
have wielded tremendous political power since the 1800's.
They formed the upper class, educated their sons and
daughters in the best overseas schools, and resisted any
effort to change the status quo. After the communist
uprising in 1930, however, the country's oligarchy supported
a military regime in order to repress the populace and
restore the stability of the country. Over the years an
uneasy alliance was developed. The senior officers of the
army and security forces were allowed to run the country
under a series of military dictatorships. In return they
received the support of and special favors from the
oligarchy. On the other hand the oligarchy was assured that
their economic position and prestige would not be challenged.
The contrast is that most of the officers in the army came
from the middle and lower class that was so severely
repressed. This system functions as long as there is no
change to the status quo.
The right realized in the 1960's that they needed a way
to prevent unions and organizations from uniting the many
peasants in the countryside. Accordingly, in 1968 General
Jose Alberto Medrano founded the Organization Democratica
Nacionalista (ORDEN--the National Democratic Organization).
Their purpose officially was "to make a barrier to the
attempts of the communists to provoke subversion in the
countryside." In fact ORDEN became a para-military unit
under the Ministry of Defense and enjoyed full government
ORDEN's members were peasants in the countryside who
were authorized to carry weapons. They worked in colla-
boration with the government security forces as informers and
thugs who used violence to strike terror into the peasant
communities. In return ORDEN members received special
advantages in jobs, pay, and housing. For many it was their
only escape from poverty. Others cooperated as a result of
threats against their families. ORDEN grew until it reached
a size of approximately 100,000 fully armed and militarily
organized members. In addition it was estimated that an
additional 60-100 thousand peasants work for ORDEN as
occasional collaborators. At any rate, virtually every
village and town in El Salvador was covered by ORDEN in a
network that reached right into the military high command.
The 1970's saw tremendous growth in the number and
strength of organizations in opposition to the military
government. As these groups increased, the military regime
countered by stepping up its repression against its
opposition. Intellectuals and trade unionists were
imprisoned and expelled from the country. ORDEN and other
terrorist organizations of the right systematically
terrorized and assasinated trade unionists, peasant leaders,
and intellectuals.(1) It was generally accepted that ORDEN
was directed in its repression by leaders of the military and
FALANGE and UGB
In 1975 the military regime of General Molina was in
severe trouble. The growing violence from the left and right
was turning the country into a virtual battleground. In an
effort to defuse the situation Molina proposed a very
cautious land reform program. The rural oligarchy and the
Asociacion Nacional de Empresa Privada (ANEP--National
Association of Private Enterprise) immediately objected.
Those affected organized themselves into the Frente Agraria
Region Oriental (FARO--Eastern Region Agrarian Front).
Together FARO and ANEP mobilized virtually the entire private
sector against the reform. This caused a government crisis
with the right wing emerging as the winner.
The land reform effort, although a failure, had
succeeded in mobilizing the right and causing increased
concern about those forces who would change the status quo.
Soon thereafter the first Escuadron de la Muerte (Death
Squads) made their existance felt. The Union Guerrera Blanca
(UGB--White Warrior's Union) specialized in killing or
threatening members of the church. The Fuerzas Armadas de
Liberacion Anticomunista-Guerra de Liberacion
Anticomunista-Guerra de Eliminacion (FALANGE--Anti-communist
Armed Forces of Liberation-War of Elimination) was believed
to consist of active, retired, or off duty members of the
security forces.(2) Their aim was simply to kill or
terrorize anyone who supported a change in the Salvadorean
The period of 1977 through 1979 was one of extreme
violence. Under the regime of President General Romero the
security forces and death squads continued to terrorize the
popular forces, and the leftists continued to retaliate. The
violence got so far out of hand a group of young reform
minded officers stepped in and conducted a coup on October
15, 1979. A junta and cabinet was formed which was an
alliance between conservatives and the left. Extreme
elements of the popular forces and the right were excluded,
and so they failed to accept the directions of the junta.
The security forces continued to repress demonstrations
and violence, and murders continued. After massive protests
and demonstrations, however, the junta agreed to many demands
from the popular forces, including the dissolution of ORDEN.
Although the junta formally disbanded ORDEN, none of their
weapons were ever collected nor were any legal actions taken
against their members for any tortures or murders that had
Early in 1980 Major Roberto D'Aubuisson emerged as a
leader and spokesman for the extreme right in El Salvador.
He had been head of intelligence for the National Guard under
the Molina and Romero regime and was believed to have
overseen the torture and murders carried out by ORDEN and the
death squads. He was one of approximately 60 military
officers forced into retirement by the junta.
In February 1980, D'Aubuisson and General Medrano, the
founder of ORDEN and now living in retirement in San
Salvador, proclaimed a new organization called the Frente
Democratica Nacionalista (FDN---the National Democratic
Front).(3) It soon became obvious that the FDN was simply a
legally reborn ORDEN that continued to carry out its acts of
During February D'Aubuisson purchased TV time using
money from oligarchs who were in exile in Miami. He
denounced the ruling junta and called the Christian Democrats
communists. He also called Archbishop Romero a communist.
On February 23, 1980 a death Squad assasinated Mario Zamora,
a member of the government. On March 24, 1980 Archbishop
Romero was assasinated while saying mass. Although no group
took credit for these killings it was generally believed that
D'Aubuisson and the right wing death squads were responsi-
During the period April 30 through May 1 D'Aubuisson and
his right wing supporters in the military launched a 2nd coup
attempt. It failed and he was ordered to be arrested by
Colonel Majano, a reform oriented member of the junta.
Although D'Aubuisson was captured on May 8 with a brief case
reportedly full of incriminating documents about the coup and
Archbishop Romero's assasination, he was released on May 13
for insufficient evidence. No charges were brought and
Colonel Majano was voted out of his position as Commander in
Chief of the Army. During the period D'Aubuisson was
interred, his supporters picketed U.S. Ambassador White's
residence, holding him a virtual prisoner for three days.
Finally, U.S. Marines from the embassy dispersed the crowd
using tear gas.(4)
These actions left little doubt about the strength and
resolve of the extreme right elements in El Salvador. Buoyed
by these events, in June 1980 D'Aubuisson and General Medrano
reportedly formed the organization known as the Ejercito
Secreta Anticomunista (ESA--Secret Anticommunist Army).
The ESA combined the UGB, ORDEN/FDN, and six other minor
The Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Brigade
The ESA and other right wing groups continued their
violence throughout 1980. In September, Ernesto Jovel, the
leader of the leftist FARN, was killed. In October the
leader of the Salvadorean Human Rights Commission, Maria
Magdalena Henriquez, was murdered. Subsequently her group
voted to disband as it could not function. Later, on October
28, Felix Ulloa, the rector of National University, was
assasinated. On November 3 a bomb blew up outside ISTA just
as a car carrying Colonel Majano passed by. Although he was
not hurt, great damage was done to the land reform center and
many employees were wounded.(6) The clear strategy of the
right was to exterminate the leaders of any group that wanted
to bring about change in the country. Many of these actions
indicated they had inside information and that the security
forces either knew of their plans and actions and did not
intercede, or were actively supporting these groups.
On November 27, 1980, 200 armed soldiers surrounded the
Jesuit High School in San Salvador, three blocks from the
U.S. Embassy. Some 20 men, heavily armed and in civilian
clothes, entered the building where key leaders of the
leftist FDR were meeting. They took away several dozen
people at gunpoint, among them leaders of the UDN, MNR, MLP,
BPR, and FDR. The junta denied any knowledge of the action
and stated no members of the Armed Forces had been involved.
A few hours later the five bodies were found at Lake
Ilopanga, seven miles from the capital. All had been
tortured and strangled.(7)
Immediately the Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Brigade
proudly took credit for the action. This was the first
appearance of a new death squad that took its name from the
general responsible for the massacre of 10,000 to 30,000
peasants in the communist uprisirig of 1932. In a communique
the Squad warned that "priests who favor the Marxist
terrorist bands will be killed if they continue with their
sermons which are poisoning the minds of Salvadorean youths."
They also said that the Church, U.S. diplomats, amd military
leaders should understand this event is nothing special, it
is an action taken to demand justice in the face of
A Role in Government
On December 2, 1980 three Roman Catholic nuns and one
female lay worker here raped, tortured, and murdered by
members of the National Guard who were believed to have taken
their orders from right wing elements in the armed forces.
On January 4, 1981 two Americans and two Salvadorean leaders
of the agrarian reform program were murdered in the coffee
shop of the Sheraton Hotel in San Salvador. Their murderers
were later determined to be men whose families had lost land
in the agrarian reform program.(9) On April 29, 1981 Ricardo
Alejandro Fiallos, former Captain in the Salvadorean Army,
testified before the United States House Appropriations
Committee. He stated:
It is a grievous error to believe that the forces
of the extreme right, or the so-called 'death
squads' operate independently of the security
forces. The simple truth of the matter is that
'Los Escuadrones de La Muerte' are made up of
members of the security forces, and acts of
terrorism credited to these squads such as
political assasinations, kidnappings, and indi-
scriminate murder are, in fact, planned by high
ranking military officers and carried out by
members of the security forces.(10)
Despite growing evidence which supported the accusation
that security forces were involved in the death squads, the
right continued to carry out their campaign of violence. So
many unidentified bodies continued to show up that standard
practice was for the local justice of the peace to certify
them as "unknowns" and authorize immediate burial by local
members of the National Guard.
In March 1981 the ruling member of the governing junta,
Provisional President Duarte, announced elections for a
constituent assembly to be held in 1982. The right, seeing
an opportunity to at last achieve a position in the govern-
ment, quickly organized into political parties. The six
legal parties were all to the right of Duarte's Christian
Democrat Party, and all advocated varying degrees of halting
and reversing underway reform. All six advocated at least a
halt to any further land reform and denationalization of the
banks. The most vocal of these parties was the ARENA party
headed by former Major D'Aubuisson, who promised that if his
party won, the FMLN would be annihilated within three
In results that astonished many, the voter turnout in
March of 1982 gave suprising credibility to the right.
Although Duarte's centrist PDC achieved a plurality of some
40 percent, they were unable to form a majority. By late
April a right wing coalition took control of the constituent
assembly. They voted themselves broad legalistic, procedural
powers, and locked the centrist Christian Democrats out of
all key positions in the legislature. D'Aubuisson was chosen
as Assembly President and other right wing members filled the
other eight leadership positions. Largely due to intense
pressure from the Salvadorean military and United States
Embassy, D'Aubuisson was not selected as civilian interim
president. Instead, a moderate, politically independent
lawyer and economist, Dr. Alvaro Magana was installed on May
2, 1982 as interim President.
In the following months D'Aubuisson succeeded in
controlling and manipulating the right wing coalition. The
land reform program came to a virtual halt with some efforts
began to reverse its previous progress. Despite continuing
offers by the left to negotiate a political settlement, he
insured the constitutent assembly emphatically denounced any
attempt to negotiate. He encouraged the area sweeping
campaigns of the armed forces which usually caused many
The right wing coalition collapsed however on January
27, 1983 in a showdown over a cabinet position. As a result
the rules were changed which had previously allowed
D'Aubuisson's ARENA party to veto any measure. The new rules
also took away D'Aubuisson's power to set the assembly
agenda. The defections from D'Aubuisson's far right policies
left the Christian Democrats leading a moderate coalition
with one vote majority.(12) The extreme right had peaked in
power and begun a slow backslide.
Pressure from the United States
Despite suffering setbacks in the constitutent assembly,
the right continued to strike out in the form of death squad
* On May 4, 1983 Christian Democrat deputy Mauricio
Mazzier criticized the constituent assembly during
debate of an amnesty bill for not addressing the issue
of abolishing right wing death squads and ending human
rights violations. He said "It is no secret that
members of the armed forces participate in some of
these acts." Two days later an unidentified body was
dumped into a San Salvador parking lot and ESA
leaflets were scattered around the body. The leaflets
identified the victim as a guerilla and threatened
Mazzier, accusing him of ties to the communists.
* On September 7 the ESA bombed a Jesuit residence at
the University of Central America and bombed a truck
of Jorge Camacho, director of the Popular Democratic
Union. The Jesuits had supported dialogue with the
guerillas while Camacho's union backed the United
States sponsored land reform so violently opposed by
* On September 10 the ESA took credit for two unidenti-
fied bodies that were found in San Salvador, claiming
they were guerillas.
* On October 7, three men and one woman were found
strangled in San Salvador: Victor Manuel Quintanilla
Ramos was the ranking member of the FDR in the
country; Jose Antonio Garcia Vasquez was a member of
an organization of doctors and other professionals who
were critical of the government; Santiago Hernandez
Jimenez was Secretary General of the United
Salvadorean Labor Federation; and Dora Munoz Castillo
was a chemistry professor. Notes that were tied to
the arms of each victim said the Maximiliano Hernandez
Martinez Brigade was responsible and said all four
victims belonged to the communist party.
* On October 24 El Mundo, San Salvador's only evening
paper and the only one accepting paid political
advertisements, ceased accepting political ads.
Bombings of radio stations and other newspapers by the
right convinced El Mundo to stop after being warned by
the ESA. The ESA demanded El Mundo quit running paid
political advertisements by unions or "other communist
groups" such as Mothers of the Disappeared.(13)
After tolerating incidents like the above for three
years, the Reagan Administration finally appeared to have had
enough. On December 11, 1983 Vice President Bush visited El
Salvador and brought a series of demands from President
Reagan. These demands included the exile of some 20 officers
and civilians linked to the death squads by U.S. intelligence
reports. By mid-January, three military officers were being
sent abroad but no actions were being taken against the
civilians for lack of judicially accepted evidence.(14)
Pressure from the United States will undoubtedly continue,
but it remains the be seen if the Salvadorean
government is capable of and willing to apprehend and bring
to trial any personnel involved in death squad activities.
Although the death squads have been a powerful force in
El Salvador, they have failed to achieve their purpose. The
left is still strong and the war continues. Perhaps their
biggest results have been to kill or drive into exile the
political moderates who might have found a way to resolve the
conflict and end the violence. At this point their continued
activity can only serve to further polarize the various
political forces in the country and ultimately lead to the
cancellation of United States economic and military support.
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Chapter VI: External Influences
The countries of Western Europe have been significant
participants in the El Salvador conflict. The nations with
conservative, democratic parties in power have tended to
remain neutral or give mild support to the efforts of the
United States to resolve the conflict. Conversely, those
with strong socialist parties have enthusiastically supported
the FDR/FMLN, politically and in some cases, economically.
At the Communist Party's 2nd International Meeting in
Oslo on June 13, 1980, aid was promised to the FDR at the
urging of the Swedish Socialist Party. The strong socialist
parties in West Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, and Austria
provided important diplomatic support as well as an
undetermined amount of financial support.(1)
Due to West Germany's neutrality in Central America and
desire to end violence in the area, in late 1980 and early
1981 Bonn took an aggressive position in trying to bring the
left and right together for negotiations. Germany had been
requested by several countries in the area, one of which was
Costa Rica, to play an intermediary role in the conflict.
Germany made a serioius effort to get both sides together in
the Federal Republic and mediate a settlement. Nevertheless
by March 1981 Germany's effort had failed because of the
reluctance and negative attitude of both sides to talk with
Perhaps the guerillas biggest supporter in Western
Europe is France. On July 2, 1981 the newly-elected French
Socialist President Francois Mitterrand expressed support for
the Salvadorean revolution saying, "It is a question of
people refusing to submit to misery and humiliation." On
August 28, 1981 the governments of France and Mexico gave
official recognition to the FDR/FMLN as a representative
The CONTADORA Group
In January 1983, the foreign ministers of Columbia.
Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela met on the Panamanian island of
Contadina to discuss ways of bringing about negotiated
settlements to the region's conflicts. The CONTADORA Group,
as they became known, issued a statement saying that the
crisis must be withdrawn from the East-West context in which
it was viewed by the Reagan Administration. Although the
ministers were concerned about the conflict in El Salvador,
they identified the major regional trouble spot as the
conflict between Nicaragua and Honduras. They met again in
April, this time with the foreign ministers of El Salvador,
Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. In a
statement from Panama City, the ministers agreed that the
responsibilities for peace lay with the Central American
Nations themselves. They stated that the main sources of
trouble in the region were due to increasing numbers of arms
and foreign military advisors.(4)
That the CONTADORA Group was attaining some degree of
political support became evident clear on May 19, 1983 when
the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to back
the efforts of the group to bring a negotiated settlement to
Central America. On June 4, Spain's Premier Felipe Gonzalez
said he would urge the United States to back the efforts of
the CONTADORA Group to bring peace to the region. He said
the CONTADORA Group's efforts were "the only hope of peace
that is left," and he asserted that the regional conflicts
resulted not from communist influence but from social
injustice and misery.
During June the 10 leaders of the European community
held a three day summit in Stuttgart, West Germany. They
endorsed the efforts of the CONTADORA Group, and stated that
Central America's problems should be solved by a negotiated
political settlement, and not by military means. During July
the 12 countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met in
Port of Spain, Trinidad. They also called for an end to
foreign intervention in Central America and endorsed the
efforts of the CONTADORA Group.
With such support generated by the CONTADORA Group, the
four presidents of the group's member nations met at Cancun,
Mexico on July 17 for talks. After some five hours of
discussion, the presidents issued a communique which called
for an end to foreign military bases, advisers, and arms
shipments into the region. They called for international
border patrols to prevent violations and requested all states
in the region to support diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.
In a separate statement, Mexico's President de la Madrid
invited President Reagan and Cuba's Fidel Castro to join the
CONTADORA Group's efforts.(5)
These initiatives appeared to get the interest of the
parties most directly involved in the conflict. On July 20
Guillermo Ungo, the leader of the leftist FDR, said his group
would join in the negotiations proposed by the group,
provided it would enable them to negotiate with the
Salvadorean Government and the United States. On July 24
Cuba's Castro also endorsed the efforts of the CONTADORA
Group, condemning "the subsitution of confrontation for
dialogue." On July 26 the White House released a letter that
had been sent by President Reagan to the Presidents of the
member nations of the Group. In the letter he expressed
strong support for the communique issued by the Presidents at
On July 28-30 the foreign ministers of the four
CONTADORA group nations and five Central American nations met
in Panama City. Although they came to no conclusions, they
did set an agenda for their next series of meetings;
furthermore they agreed that military officers should join in
future peace talks. Their meetings in September were more
successful, and by October 5, Columbia President Cuartas
announced at a news conference that Costa Rica, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua had agreed to a 21 point
proposal on issues for future negotiations. The issues
included a freeze on arms imports and the size of armies,
reductions of foreign military advisors, and denying the use
of territories for aggression against other nations.(6)
On January 8, 1984 the defense ministers of all five
Central American nations agreed to a peace plan to end
violence through free elections and reductions in arms and
foreign military advisors. Meeting again in Panama City, the
pact agreed to was a modification of the proposal submitted
previously by the CONTADORA Group. The pact calls for:
* An inventory of arms, bases and soldiers in each
country and their subsequent control and reduction
* Census of foreign military advisors and adoption of a
calendar for reduction
* Commissions to be set up by the end of January to
prepare studies and recommendations, and monitor
Although it remains to be seem whether the recommendations
can be implemented, for once the countries of the region are
making a serious effort to solve their own problems. Most
important, the focus is on the elimination of outside
As early as February 1981 U.S. Secretary of State
Alexander Haig stated that "with Cuban coordination, the
Soviet bloc, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and radical Arabs are
furnishing at least several hundred tons of military
equipment to the Salvadoran leftist insurgents..." This
stance, which has been taken and maintained by the United
States government, has been constantly denied by the
countries accused of involvement. Some facts are available
however, that tend to indicate there is some extreme
From late 1979 throughout 1980 various members of the
left met with Castro of Cuba and other representatives from
the communist countries of East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland,
Vietnam, Hungary, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and the Soviet Union.
Although it is difficult to ascertain exactly what levels of
arms, direction, and training the Salvadorean Guerillas
obtained from these sources, by January 1981 they were able
to launch a significant offensive. Weapons and equipment
such as Belgian FAL rifles, German G-3 rifles, U.S. M-1,
M-16, and AR-15 rifles, .30 to .50 caliber machine guns, U.S.
M-60 machine guns, U.S. and Russian hand grenades, U.S. M-79
and Chinese RPG grenade launchers, and the U.S. M-72 light
antitank weapon and 81 mm mortar were used. These weapons
and equipment had never been used before in El Salvador, by
either the military or the insurgents.(8)
The FMLN has steadfastly denied it received weapons from
other communist cuontries. It has stated four sources of
* Purchased from the international arms market
* Purchased from corrupt Salvadorean army officers
* Manufacturered by the FMLN
* Captured from the Salvadorean Military(9)
Allegedly the money to purchase the arms came initially from
ransom money from kidnappings and from bank robberies
conducted during the 1970's. Now it supposedly comes from
worldwide voluntary contributions such as the $1 million
contributed by West German leftists during 1981.(10)
In addition to statements by the Salvadorean guerillas
that communist countries are not providing them aid, those
nations involved deny providing aid or support. Cuba
emphatically states it is not supporting Salvadorean leftists
with arms and equipment, just like it did not support the
Sandinistas in Nicaragua. It has referred to these struggles
as "domestic matters" that are "exclusively" the affair of
the Salvadorean people.(11) History has shown however, that
Cuba very actively supported the Sandinistas.
At the same time, Cuba and Nicaragua have stated they
are willing to discuss various peace plans and initiatives in
the Caribbean basin with the Reagan Administration. In fact
Nicaragua has even proposed peace plans. While not admitting
they are aiding the Salvadorean leftists, the peace plans
stipulate that the supply of arms, training and equipment to
Salvadorean leftists would stop.(12) Statements such as
these must logically seem to indicate that communist
countries, largely through Cuba and Nicaragua, are actively
supporting the rebels.
The United States periodically releases statements as to
the amount of arms the FMLN is receiving, but the U.S.
refuses to identify its sources. To do so would put the
collection means in jeopardy, but by refusing to produce the
"smoking gun," the U.S. leaves room for doubt by many.
Today the war continues in El Salvador. Surely the
left's supply of money from bank robberies and kidnappings
has been exhausted. Although they do capture significant
quantities of munitions from the Salvadorean military, it is
inconceivable that they are not getting arms from other
communist countries. The FMLN has adamantly denied receiving
arms from communist countries because that would indicate
their involvement in a greater East-West struggle. It is
evident, however, that the guerillas have received and
continue to receive a significant amount of arms from other
communist countries. Without this support, their insurgency
would be conducted at a much lower level of intensity.
The coup of October 15, 1979 found the Carter
administration in an optimistic position toward El Salvador.
The violent repressive Romero regime had been replaced by a
broad based coalition that promised land reform as a top
priority. The Carter Administration was in favor of land
reform and a general policy of human rights, so it supported
the junta's efforts to stabilize the country and enact
reform. Nicaragua had fallen to the Sandinistas in 1979, at
least in part due to the lack of support from the Carter
Administration. There was no desire in the State Department
to let El Salvador join Nicaragua and Cuba as Marxist
countries in "our backyard." Lethal military aid had been
withheld from El Salvador since 1977 on human rights grounds,
but on March 4, 1980 the Defense Department reprogrammed $5.7
million in Foreign Military Sales.(13) That this aid was
strongly desired by the Salvadorean military was evident by
the fact that the United States was able to prevent a coup by
Major Roberto D'Aubuisson on February 24. The coup was
prevented by threatening to withdraw the $5.7 million aid in
trucks, radios, and tear gas.(14)
On March 15, 1980 Robert White took over as ambassador
to El Salvador. White had been an outspoken advocate of
human rights in Paraguay and had the strong support of
congressional liberals. His appointment, however, had been
held up for weeks in the Senate by Senator Jesse Helms, the
conservative who opposed the administration's emphasis on
land reform as a step toward socialization.(15) White
believed the junta was the best means of strengthening the
moderate position and avoiding civil war. Initially he felt
there was no way to enter into dialogue with the left because
of its anti-American positions. Under White, the U.S.
pursued four objectives in El Salvador:
* To pressure the government into implementing real
social reforms designed to undercut the left's popular
* To urge the government to reduce the level of official
terrorism by reigning in its own security forces, even
if that required the removal of some rightist officers
* To protect the government from a coup by the extreme
* To entice the moderate left away from its alliance
with the guerillas, thus opening the way for a
negotiated settlement that would leave the radicals
isolated on the political periphery.(16)
Although White was a strong force in El Salvador
applying pressure for reform and free elections, President
Carter's election defeat in November 1980 made him powerless.
It was generally accepted that he would be replaced by
President Reagan, and after November White was ineffective.
His position was also weakened by other incidents. During
November a document titled the "El Salvador Dissent Paper"
was circulated in Washington. Its anonymous authors,
believed to be from the CIA and Departments of State and
Defense, said U.S. policy of supporting the junta was
bankrupt and we should either make peace with the insurgents
or at least not provide military or economic aid to the
current government.(17) Additionally, the December 2 murder
of four American church women caused the Carter
Administration to suspend the balance of the $5.7 million in
"nonlethal" military aid. However, three days before leaving
office, on January 17, 1981, Carter resumed the aid based on
captured guerilla documents that revealed the extensive
involvement of Cuba and other Communist nations.(18) This
was one week after the left had begun their "final
offensive, " and came at a crucial time in the conflict. For
the first time since 1977 El Salvador received aid consisting
of arms and munitions.
Ambassador White had publicly opposed military aid to El
Salvador. He was recalled to Washington soon after the
inauguration, and was relieved on February 2, 1981.(19) His
replacement was Deane R. Hinton, whose views coincided more
with the Reagan Administration's view of the situation in
Central America. During February the State Department issued
a White Paper entitled "Communist Interference in El
Salvador." The paper claimed El Salvador was the victim of
communist aggression and detailed many facts and figures to
support their claims.(20) Although many members of the media
and liberals cited incons stencies and inaccuracies with the
paper, the government maintained that the overall thrust of
the document was accurate. Using the white paper for
support, the United States began to intervene more directly
in El Salvador. Increased amounts of military aid were
requested and 55 military advisors were provided to train the
Salvadoreans in countering guerilla warfare.
Many members of Congress did not accept the conclusions
of the white paper, however, and began working to stop or
limit military aid to El Salvador, By October 1981 the
Republican controlled Senate established conditions for U.S.
aid to continue to El Salvador. President Reagan would have
to certify semi-annually that the Salvadorean government was
making progress toward controlling the security forces "in
order to end the torture and indiscriminate assassinations
against Salvadorean citizens." When the President did
certify to Congress in a letter in January 1982, that
progress was being made, there was a tremendous outcry from
many liberal groups.(21)
The cornerstone of U.S. policy in El Salvador was to
encourage free elections and land reform as a way to dissolve
the leftist opposition. During 1981 the governing junta
moved toward both these concerns under pressure from the PDC
and the United States. Although the land reform was not 100%
successful, it was seen as a legitimate effort at reform.
Elections were another positive effort, and they were held in
March 1982. Initially the State Department was euphoric over
the high voter turnout, believed to be 80% of the eligible
voters. It soon became clear however, that the elections had
failed to confirm legitimacy on Duarte and the PDC, but
rather had given it to D'Aubuisson and other right wing
forces. Although D'Aubuisson succeeded in forming a right
wing coalition that controlled the constituent assembly, it
was largely due to United States pressures and threats to
cutoff aid that resulted in a moderate banker, Alvaro Magana,
being named Provisional President.
The remainder of 1982 saw the left in El Salvador
growing stronger while Secretary of State Haig and President
Reagan repeatedly charged that their arms were being supplied
by Cuba, mainly through Nicaragua. Meanwhile the U.S.
continued to press the newly elected Salvadorean Constituent
Assembly to maintain its land reform program and end
repression. Washington made it clear that the rightist
policies of Roberto D'Aubuisson, the assembly president, was
not in the U.S. plan for El Salvador. One thing the State
Department and Salvadorean government agreed on was that
there would be no negotiations with the guerillas. This
stance, however, angered many liberal congressmen who saw
negotiations as the only way out of the conflict.
On October 29 Ambassador Hinton made a speech to the
Salvadorean Chamber of Commerce in which he criticized the
Salvadorean Government for its poor record on human rights.
He threatened to cut off aid, saying, "The guerillas of this
mafia, every bit as much as the guerillas in Morazan and
Chalatenango, are destroying El Salvador."(22) Although this
speech had been cleared by Thomas Enders, Assistant Secretary
of State for Inter-American Affairs, it had not been cleared
by the White House.(23) The bluntness of the speech caused
considerable embarresment to the Reagan administration who
had been certifying every six months that the Salvadorean
Government was making steady progress toward improvements in
human rights. Although the White House maintained that the
administration still had full faith and confidence in Hinton,
both Hinton and Enders were soon replaced. In May 1983
Langhorne A. Motley, former ambassador to Brazil, was named
to replace Enders, who became Ambassador to Spain. In June
Thomas R. Pickering, former ambassador to Nigeria, was named
to replace Hinton.
The Reagan Administration maintained its economic and
military aid to El Salvador while continuing to press for
reform. In keeping with the 1982 congressional certification
process, the Administration was required to certify to
Congress every six months that El Salvador was making steady
progress toward improvement in human rights. The Admin-
istration met this paper requirement in July 1982, January
1983, and July 1983, receiving opposition and debate from
Congress and other groups on each occasion. Nevertheless,
the administration maintained its course. The reasons for
U.S. support were stated by President Reagan in a speech on
March 10, 1983.
Central America is simply too close, and the
strategic stakes are too high, for us to ignore the
danger of governments seizing power there with
ideological ties to the Soviet Union. If the FMLN
were to win, El Salvador will join Cuba and
Nicaragua as a base for spreading fresh violence to
Guatemala, Honduras, even Costa Rica. The killing
will increase, and so will the threat to Panama,
the Canal, and ultimately Mexico.(24)
Although the U.S. attempted to improve the proficiency
of the Salvadorean military, there was little indication of
any success. The guerillas succeeded in controlling more
areas of the countryside, refusing to fight except at the
time and place of their choosing. Some 7,000 Salvadorean
troops had been trained in the U.S. at Ft. Benning since
1981; but the Pentagon announced in June 1983 that only
one-half of these troops were still on active duty. Of the
ones trained in 1981, only 15% remained, the rest having left
when their enlistments expired.(25) Nevertheless, the U.S.
continued to attempt to train the Salvadorean soldiers.
Secretary of State Shultz has consistently opposed
negotiating with the left, saying that he did not want to
give them a position in the government that they were failing
to win on the battlefield. He feels that negotiations would
have enabled them to "shoot their way into the
government."(26) While the guerillas have not taken over the
cities, they do control significant areas in the countryside.
Feeling the pressure however, President Reagan on June 20,
1983 nominated former Senator Richard B. Stone of Florida as
Special Envoy to Central America. His mission was to examine
the possibility of talks with the guerillas, provided that:
* The Salvadorean Government approves
* Guerilla role in government must be achieved by
elections, not by prior negotiations(27)
Although Stone ultimately met with Ruben Zamora in July and
again in August, nothing came of the meetings.
In an effort to find a comprehensive solution to the
problems in El Salvador and the rest of Central America,
President Reagan formed a Bipartisan Commission on Central
America during July 1983. The 12 man commission was headed
by former Secretary of State Kissinger, and included six
democrats. The commission heard testimony from former
Presidents and Secretaries of State, and toured the entire
region. During the tour they met with leaders of both the
government and opposition. The commission reported out in
January 1984, reaching broad consensus in their findings.
Only 2 of the report's 132 pages were dissenting notes from
individual members of the commission. The commission
recommended an eight billion dollar program of U.S. aid over
the next six years, conditional on observance of human rights
and support for democratic processes. The report stated
repeatedly that "indiginous revolutions pose no threat to the
United States" but that current revolutions in the region
have been "captured" by the communists. To date the
commission has failed to generate the broad consensus in
Congress that is necessary for implementation of its
recommendations. Only time will tell the ultimate value of
At the beginning of 1984 the United States is faced with
a military stalemate in El Salvador. Although helping to
fund the increase in Salvadorean Armed Forces from 20,000 to
almost 40,000 over the past four years, there has been no
victory over the rebel forces. Instead, the guerillas have
succeeded in destroying bridges, communications centers, and
railroads that are continuing to hurt the country's economy.
The Salvadorean military consistently fails to find and
destroy the guerilla bases. Under continuing U.S. pressure,
deaths due to political violence have decreased over the past
four years from around 800 deaths per month to around 100
deaths per month. Although the government is less repressive
and there has been some land reform, these efforts do not
appear to have weakened the strength of the guerillas.
Although the U.S. continues to push for the March 1984
Presidential Elections, the left will not participate and a
comprehensive solution is not in sight. Perhaps the hopes of
the State Department are best expressed by Fred Ikle, Under
Secretary of Defense for Policy:
Since 1978, five countries [of Latin America and
the Caribean] have made a peaceful transition from
military regimes to elected democratic governments.
It is the much-criticized military regimes that are
often transformed into a democracy; but there has
never yet been a Marxist-Leninist regime that was
succeeded by democracy.(29)
The situation in El Salvador is not a unique one.
Terrible economic and political conditions have caused a
significant portion of the populace to use force to attain
change in their government. What has complicated matters is
that the ones attempting change have been strongly supported
by Cuba and other marxist countries. This has presented
Washington with the age old dilemna; intervene or allow the
communist backed forces to take over the country. Washington
has made the decision to intervene in the form of military
and economic aid and 55 military advisors. Unfortunately,
the efforts have been matched by increased communist
assistance. The conflict has now taken on the form of an
It appears there are only four possible outcomes of the
* The fighting can continue for many years with each
side controlling certain zones in the country.
* The left can achieve a victory much like the
Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
* There can be a negotiated political settlement with
some form of power sharing between the right and the
* The right can achieve a clear cut military victory
over the left, but the price in terms of violence and
repression may be more than the United States public
Whatever the outcome of the fighting in El Salvador, the
external influences of foreign countries will have more to do
with the level of violence than with the ultimate outcome.
"We are challenged now in Central America. No agony of
indecision will make that challenge go away. No wishing it
were easier will make it easier."
- Report of the National
Bipartisan Commision on
Central America, January 1984
Chapter VII: Conclusions and Recommendations
1. The war in El Salvador is a genuine revolution of
the populace, brought on by decades of military repression,
corrupt elections, a greedy uncaring oligarchy, and a totally
inadequate standard of living for the majority of the
population. Even if all external support for the left was to
be removed, the conflict will continue.
2. The genuine revolution of the populace has been
exploited by Cuba and other marxist countries. Cuba is
attempting to take advantage of the social, political, and
economic discontent to establish another marxist controlled
3. Each increase in military and economic aid by the
United States has been met by increased aid from Cuba and
other Marxist countries so that despite increasing amounts of
arms and soldiers, the war remains a military stalemate.
This continued involvement by the United States and Cuba has
caused the conflict to become somewhat of an east-west
4. The policy of the United States and Salvadorean
Governments to refuse to negotiate with the left eliminates
as many as 100,000 to 200,000 Salvadoreans from repre-
sentation in the government. This lack of participation of
some 5-10% of the Salvadorean people ensures that regardless
of the outcome of the 1984 Salvadorean Presidential
elections, the war will continue.
5. Continuing human rights abuses by the poorly trained
armed forces and right wing death squads are the biggest
obstacle to establishing peace and security in El Salvador.
These abuses aid guerilla recruiting and prevent even
moderate leftists from entertaining serious thoughts about
participating in Salvadorean elections.
6. The Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador has taken a
stand in favor of improving the condition of the poor. This
position is supported by the Vatican and church leaders in
the United States. This position will not change and the
church will continue to be viewed as being in opposition to
the government and the military. This will also result in
many church leaders in the United States opposing aid to the
El Salvador government or military.
7. The left in El Salvador is less Marxist than they
are revolutionaries against a historically corrupt,
repressive, unresponsive government. However, the longer the
conflict continues, the more marxist and less pluralist
elements of the left will attain stronger positions.
Moderates tend to disappear over a period of time in intense
conflicts. Under certain conditions the left might be
persuaded to participate in a government that is pluralist
and allows a degree of free enterprise. The resulting
country may not be an ally of the United States, but it would
not be a satellite of Moscow.
8. U.S. pressures on El Salvador to reform have only
been partially successful. There has been some land reform,
the deaths due to political violence are decreasing, and
partially honest elections have been held. The efforts must
continue over a period of many years if El Salvador is to
become a peaceful and stable country.
1. Sincere efforts should be made toward negotiations
which will bring the left into the government through some
form of elections by the left or power sharing formula.
Failure to integrate the left into the government will only
prolong the war which the Salvadorean government has been
unable to win and the United States Congress is growing tired
2. The United States, as part of a broader program to
diffuse the growing unrest in Central America, should
enthusiastically support the efforts of the CONTADORA Group
with offers of U.S. development aid and construction/
education/medical programs. This would put the U.S. in
alignment with, instead of in opposition to, the majority of
the countries in the region that are generally democratic and
supporters of free enterprise. Ultimately this change in
U.S. policy could decrease the anti-American sentiment in the
area and possibly move Cuba into a more moderate posture.
3. The United States should refuse economic and
military aid to El Salvador unless recent efforts to end the
abuses of the armed forces and death squads are both
continued and intensified. Continued aid without a
corresponding decrease in abuses serves to perpetuate the
idea that Washington is supporting and financing repression.
4. Intense efforts must be made to make the Salvadorean
armed forces a more discip ined, well trained force that
recognizes human rights while using tactics necessary to stop
the guerillas' campaign of economic sabotage. These efforts
would probably include restructuring of basic training, unit
training, and most importantly--officer training. The
measure of success must be that the populace supports the
army's efforts, and the guerillas either quit or agree to an
acceptable political settlement.
5. The current emphasis on land reform should be
continued, but it must be accompanied by both agricultural
education and loans for the peasants so that the land is
productive and the country does not suffer economically. The
class of large landowners and economic elite did not develop
overnight, and neither will a new middle class of farmers.
Chapter I: Background
1. Roger Burbach, "El Salvador," Collier's
Encyclopedia, (New York: MacMillen, 1982) p.108.
2. Franklin D. Parker, "El Salvador," The Encyclopedia
Americana, (Danbury, Conn.: Glolier, 1982) p. 261.
3. U.S. Department of State, "El Salvador," Background
Notes, (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Public Affairs, 1981) p.
4. Thomas P. Anderson, The War of the Dispossessed
(Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1981) p.
5. U.S. Department of State, "El Salvador," p. 2.
6. Anderson, p. 12.
7. U.S. Department of State, "El Salvador," p. 2.
8. Anderson, p. 12.
9. Thomas P. Anderson, Matanza, El Salvador's
Communist Revolt of 1932 (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of
Nebraska Press, 1971) p. 3.
10. Thomas P. Anderson, Politics in Central America
(Stanford, CA: Praeger, 1982) p. 2.
11. Burbach, p. 112.
12. Anderson, The War of the Dispossssed, p. 4.
13. Parker, p. 263.
14. Marvin E. Gettleman, Patrick Lacefield, Louis
Menashe, David Mermelstein, and Ronald Radosh, El Salvador:
Central America In The New Cold War (New York: Grove, 1981)
15. Anderson, The War of the Dispossessed, p. 17.
16. Gettleman et al., p. 57.
17. Parker, p. 19.
18. Anderson, Matanza, pp. 23-85.
19. Gettleman et al., p. 60.
20. Anderson, Matanza, pp. 143-144.
21. Gettleman et al., p. 60.
22. Parker, p. 264.
23. Gettleman et al., p. 60.
24. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 65.
25. Anderson, The War of the Dispossessed, p. 31.
26. Anderson, Politics in Central America p. 66.
27. Anderson, The War of the Dispossessed, p. 114.
28. U.S. Department of State, "El Salvador," p. 2.
29. Anderson, The War of the Dispossessed, p. 125.
30. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 66.
31. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 67.
32. Gettleman et al., p. 79.
33. Anderson, Politics in Central America, pp. 69-71.
34. Robert Armstrong and Janet Shenk, El Salvador, The
Face of Revolution (Boston: South End Press, 1982) p. 107.
35. Gettleman et al., p. 82.
36. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 73.
37. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 113.
38. Tommie Sue Montgomery, Revolution in El Salvador:
Origins and Evolution (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press,
1982) p. 10.
39. Montgomery, P. 7.
40. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 121.
Chapter II: The Left
1. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 123.
2. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 78.
3. Gettleman et al., p. 85.
4. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 132.
5. Montgomery, p. 28.
6. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 82.
7. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 82.
8. Armstrong, and Shenk, p. 135.
9. Andersong, Politics in Central America, p. 86.
10. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 154.
11. Gettleman et al., p. 63.
12. Armstrong and Shenk, pp. 154-170.
13. Gettleman et al., p. 237.
14. Montgomery, p. 134.
15. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 164.
16. Montgomery, p. 138.
17. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 91.
18. Gettleman et al., p. 138.
19. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 172.
20. Gettleman et al., p. 63.
21. Gettleman et al., p. 118.
22. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 184.
23. Anderson, Politics in Central America, p. 90.
24. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 185.
25. Gettleman et al., p. 64.
26. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 187.
27. Montgomery, p. 140.
28. Gettleman et al., p. 65.
29. Montgomery, pp. 142-181.
30. Keesings Contemporary Archives, Record of World
Events, 1982 (London, England: Keesing's Publications, 1982)
31. Comptroller General, Applicability of Certain U.S.
Laws That Pertain To U.S. Military Involvement In El Salvador
(Washington, D.C.: GAO, July 27, 1982) p. 13.
32. Montgomery, p. 186.
33. Keesings, p. 31614.
34. Montgomery, p. 149.
35. Keesings Contemporary Archives, Record of World
Events, 1983, (London, England: Keesing's Publications, 1983)
36. Facts On File, Weekly News Digest With Cumulative
Index, 1983, (New York: Facts on File, 1983) p. 176.
37. Keesings, 1983, p. 32426.
38. Facts on File, 1983,. p. 683.
39. "Kissinger Unit Talks With Rebel Leaders Of 2 Key
Countries," New York Times, October 23, 1983, p. 1, col. 4.
40. "Attacking the Death Squads," Newsweek, January 16,
1984, pp. 26-27.
Chapter III: The Church
1. Gettleman et al., p. 192.
2. Montgomery, p. 98.
3. Anderson, Politics In Central America., p. 12.
4. Montgomery, p. 99.
5. Montgomery, pp. 99-104.
6. Gettleman et al., p. 195.
7. Montgomery, p. 109.
8. Montgomery, pp. 109-110.
9. Montgomery, p. 111.
10. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 72.
11. Montgomery, p. 114.
12. Gettleman et al., p. 196.
13. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 71.
14. Gettleman et al., p. 196.
15. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 123.
16. Gettleman et al., p. 62.
17. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 139.
18. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 85.
19. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 149.
20. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 150.
21. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 86.
22. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 151.
23. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 100.
24. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 174.
25. Montgomery, p. 114
26. Gettleman et al., p. 197.
27. Gettleman et al., p. 63.
28. Gettleman et al., pp. 204-205.
Chapter IV: The Government
1. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 171.
2. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 120.
3. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 77.
4. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 125.
5. Montgomery, p. 16.
6. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 122.
7. Gettleman et al. p. 87.
8. Montgomery, p. 2 .
9. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 129.
10. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 79.
11. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 129.
12. Anderson, Politics In Central America p. 80.
13. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 130.
14. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 130.
15. Anderson, Politics In Central America, pp. 77-80.
16. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 80.
17. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 81.
18. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 138.
19. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 83.
20. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 83.
21. Gettleman et al., p. 62.
22. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 143.
23. Anderson, Politics In Central America, pp. 84-85.
24. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 156.
25. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 103.
26. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 86.
27. Armstrong and Shenk, pp. 146-159.
28. Montgomery, p. 177.
29. Gettleman et al., p. 148.
30. Paul Desruisseaux, "Its Sacked Campus Patrolled by
Guardsmen, Salvadorean University Survives in Exile," The
Chronicle of Higher Education, September 14, 1983, p. 27.
31. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 171.
32. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 92.
33. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 178.
34. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 92.
35. Montgomery, p. 186.
36. Gettleman et al., p. 65.
37. Montgomery, p. 186.
38. Montgomery, pp. 171-183.
39. Keesings, 1982, p.31810.
40. Montgomery, p. 189.
41. Keesings, 1983, p. 32422.
42. Keesings, 1983, pp. 32422-32424.
43. Facts On File, 1983, p. 49.
44. Keesings, 1983, p. 32423.
45. Facts On File, 1983, p. 76.
46. The Nation (New York: Nation Associates, 1983) p.
47. Facts On File, 1983, p. 305.
48. Keesings, 1983, p. 32425.
49. Facts On File, 1983, pp. 617-771.
50. Facts On File, 1983, pp. 176, 589.
51. Facts On File, 1983, p. 464
52. Facts On File, 1983, pp. 684, 904.
Chapter V: The Right
1. Gettleman et al., pp. 79-137.
2. Gettleman et al., pp. 81-137.
3. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 82.
4. Armstrong and Shenk, pp. 140-160.
5. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 87.
6. Anderson, Politics In cEntral America, p. 91.
7. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 172.
8. Gettleman et al., p. 139.
9. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 180.
10. Gettleman et al., p. 147.
11. Montgomery, p. 185.
12. Facts On File, 1983, p. 76.
13. Facts On File, 1983, p. 803.
14. Robert J. McCarthy, "U.S. Lauds Drive To Halt Death
Squads," Washington Post, January 8, 1984, p. 1, col. 4.
Chapter VI: External Influences
1. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 170.
2. Michael Kelly Hopkins, The US and The FRG In The
Third World, Thesis. Naval Postgraduate School 1982
(Monterey, California: DTIC, 1982), p. 81.
3. Gettleman et al., p. 65.
4. Facts On File, 1983, p. 320.
5. Facts On File, 1983, pp. 424-535.
6. Facts On File, 1983, pp. 557-787.
7. Joseph B. Frazier, "Central American Peace Plan
Approved, "The Washington Post, January 10, 1984, p. A18,
8. Gettleman et al., p. 217-237.
9. Montgomery, p. 145.
10. Montgomery, p. 145.
11. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, "Support For
El Salvador Insurgency In Soviet, Cuban, And Nicaraguan
Media," February 10, 1981, p. 2.
12. Hedrick Smith, "Kissinger Warns On Latin
Situation," New York Times, October 22, 1983, p. 4, col. 1.
13. Gettleman et al., p. 224.
14. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 84.
15. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 144.
16. Gettleman et al., p. 365.
17. Anderson, Politics In Central America, p. 104.
18. Armstrong and Shenk, p. 188.
19. Montgomery, p. 179.
20. Gettleman et al., p. 230.
21. Montgomery, p. 184.
22. Keesings, 1983 p. 32428.
23. Facts On File, 1983, p. 400.
24. Keesings, 1983, p. 32428.
25. Facts On File, 1983, p. 448.
26. The Nation, p. 292.
27. Facts On File, 1983. p. 465.
28. James Omang, "Kissinger Panel Builds No Hill
Consensus," The Washington Post, January 15, 1984, p. A17,
29. Fred C. Ikle, "The Three Elements Of Our Caribbean
Strategy," Defense 83, December 1983, p.10.
Anderson, Thomas P., Politics In Central America. Stanford,
CA: Praeger Publishers, 1982. This is an excellent
effort to provide a review and analysis of the history
and present politics of each Central American Country.
Although looking at the forces at work in each
individual country, this work also describes the
similarities, differences, and interrelationships of the
Anderson, Thomas P., Matanza, El Salvador's Communist Revolt
of 1932. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska
Press, 1971. Matanza is a scholarly effort by Anderson
on the causes and events surrounding the 1932 Communist
uprising in El Salvador. It must be judged as the
definitive study of the event, as it is referenced by
every serious student of Central American history and
politics. In addition to a factual and detailed study
of this long ago event, Anderson provides insights which
enable the reader to make the transition into related
events occuring in El Salvador today.
Anderson, Thomas P., The War Of The Dispossessed. Lincoln,
Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1981. This book
is a very detailed account of the causes, conduct, and
effects of the 1969 "Soccer War" between El Salvador and
Honduras. Presenting both sides to the story, the
reader is able to understand the differences between the
2 countries, differences which become more apparent with
the passage of time.
Anderson, Robert and Shenk, Janet, El Salvador, The Face of
Revolution. Boston, Mass.: South End Press, 1982. This
is an excellent effort to understand the many different
forces at work within El Salvador. The authors clearly
support human rights and this is evident in their work.
Nevertheless, this is a good solid effort that is only
Gettleman, Marvin E.; Lacefield, Patrick; Menashe, Louis;
Mermelstein, David; and Radosh, Ronald: El Salvador:
Central America In The New Cold War. New York: Grove
Press, 1981. This book is an excellent compilation of
speeches, press conferences, government briefing
reports, and opposing views of the crisis in El
Salvador. Although the authors do not pretend to be
impartial, their few editorial comments are
insignificant. By presenting unedited selections of
actual statements and documents representing those on
all sides of the political spectrum, the book enables
the reader to draw his own conclusions.
Montgomery, Tommie Sue, Revolution In El Salvador: Origins
and Evolution. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1982.
This slightly biased book presents a detailed account of
actions prior to and during the present conflict in El
Salvador. The author admits her bias up front stating
she does not see this revolution as being guided and
directed by the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, this is an
extensively researched book with many referenced
interviews. Had more of the interviews been with
individuals on the right side of the political spectrum,
this would have been a more balanced volume.
Bream, Joseph R., LTCol, "El Salvador: A Case Study."
Research Report for air War College, Maxwell Air Force
Base, Alabama, February 1983. This is a relatively
short work of 16 pages on the present conflict in El
Salvador. Although it does not offer recommendations
for future actions, it does contain some valid lessons
Fonseca L., Hector Rene, Major, "Honduras: Will The
Revolution Come?" Thesis for U.S. Army Command and
General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, June 3,
1983. This is an extensively researched and well
prepared study of the social, economic, political, and
military conditions in Honduras that may make the
country vulnerable to insurgency. It also examines
briefly the conditions in neighboring countries,
including El Salvador. This is a valuable reference to
place the El Salvador conflict into the perspective of
conflict within the entire Central American region.
Hopkins, Kelly Michael, "The US and the FRG In The Third
World." Thesis for Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey,
California, June 982. Hopkins portrays the role of the
United States and the Federal Republic of Germany in
dealing with problems and conflicts in the Third World.
The short section on El Salvador is only useful in that
it presents the German perspective of the conflict and
why their mediation efforts failed.
Jaehne, Richard L., Major and Carlock, Reid O., Major, "El
Salvador--Sources of Conflict." Research Report for
Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Quantico,
Virginia, June 7, 1983. This work is a significant
effort to detail the history of El Salvador and
determine the causes of the present conflict. It is
useful in understanding long term causative factors, but
spends little effort concentrating on events over the
past 3-5 years.
Tragakis, Christopher J., and Weinstein, John M., "The Moral
Dimension of National Security." Research report of the
Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College,
Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, April 1, 1983. This
brief research memorandum attempts to consider the moral
aspects of US involvement in the Third World. They
concluded that U.S. involvement in El Salvador is
acceptable provided the Salvadorean Government continued
to make progress toward generally accepted international
norms of human rights social/economic/political
Ward, Jerome A., Major, "The Church in El Salvador."
Research Report for Air Command and Staff College,
Maxwell AFB, Alabama, March 29, 1981. This brief report
attempts to explain the role of the Catholic Church in
Salvadorean Society. It does provide a look at high
level Roman Catholic policy, but provides little detail
of how the policy is actually carried out by the
religious personnel of the country.
Burbach, Roger. "El Salvador." Colliers Encyclopedia, 1982,
Deming, Angus; Robert Rivard, Ron Moreau, John J. Lindsay,
and Kim Willenson. "An Army on the Ropes?" Newsweek,
January 16, 1984, pp. 26-27.
Desruisseaux, Paul. "Its Sacked Campus Patrolled by
Guardsmen, Salvadorean University Survives in Exile."
The Chronicle Of Higher Education, September 14, 1983,
Frazier, Joseph B. "Central American Peace Plan Approved."
Washington Post, January 10, 1984, p. A18.
Ikel, Fred C. "The Three Elements Of Our Caribbean
Strategy." Defense 83, December, 1983, pp. 10-15.
"Kissinger Unit talks With Rebel Leaders Of 2 Key Countries."
New York Times, October 23, 1983, p. 1.
McCarthy, Robert J. "U.S. Lauds Drive to Halt Death Squads."
Washington Post, Janaury 8, 1984, p. 1.
"Next Stop--Central America." U.S. News and World Report,
July 11, 1983, pp. 20-24.
Nutting, Wallace H. "A World In Conflict. Defense 83,
December, 1983, pp. 2-9.
Olivares, J. Roberto Lopez. "Speech Presented By the
Director of the Military Hospital on the Occasion of the
'Hospital Day' Celebration." Translated by Armed Forces
Medical Intelligence Center, Fort Detrick, Maryland,
February 14, 1983.
Omang, James. "Kissinger Panel Builds No Hill Consensus.
The Washington Post, January 15, 1984, p. A17.
Parker, Franklin D. "El Salvador." The Encyclopedia
Americana, 1982, pp. 260-264.
Smith, Hedrick. "Kissinger Warns On Latin Situation." New
York Times, October 22, 1983, p. 4.
Watson, Russell; Robert Rivard, Ron Moreau, John Walcott, and
Thomas M. DeFrank. "Attacking The Death Squads."
Newsweek, January 16, 1984, pp. 24-35.
Whitaker, Mark; Thomas M. DeFrank, Eleanor Clift, John J.
Lindsay, and Jane Whitmore. " The Kissinger Report."
Newsweek, January 16, 1984, pp. 35-37.
Facts On File, Weekly News Digest with Cumulative Index.
Published by Facts on File, Inc. New York: 1980, 1981,
1982, 1983, 1984.
Foreign Broadcast Information Service. "Support For El
Salvador Insurgency In Soviet, Cuban, and Nicaraguan
Media." February 10, 1981.
Kessings Contemporary Archives, Record of World Events.
Published by Keesings Publications, London, England:
1980, 1981, 1982, 1983.
The Nation. Published weekly by Nation Associates, Inc., New
United States Department of State. "El Salvador, Background
Notes." Washington, DC: February, 1981.
United States General Accounting Office." Applicability Of
Certain U.S. Laws That Pertain to U.S. Military
Involvement In El Salvador." Washington, DC: July 27,
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