A NATIONAL SECURITY STATE IN THE PERIPHERY
OF THE WORLD CAPITALIST SYSTEM
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATE--END OF CAPITALISM?
Overview: Theoretical Models .............. 3
Statement of the Problem ................ . 9
Revolutionary Theory .................... .. 13
Coffee .................................... 23
Military Rule ............................. 26
ARENA--The Nationalist Republican Alliance ............ 42
Conclusion ................................ 46
Overview .................................. 47
Community Soledad .................. 49
Popotlan .................................. 53
September 5th Community ....... 55
IV. WOMEN'S GROUPS
Overview .................................. 58
Women's Institute ......................... 59
UNADES .................................... 61
Co-Madres ................................. 63
Overview .................................. 66
El Salvador University ............. 67
Roman Catholic Church ....... 70
Overview .................................. 74
UNTS ...................................... 74
Fenastras ................................. 77
Overview .................................. 80
Election Day .............................. 81
Voting and the National ID Chris Norton .............................. 86
Overview .................................. 92
Marta ..................................... 92
Father Luis Olivares ...................... 100
Roberto Recino ............................ 106
Dr. Luis Antillon ......................... 108
IX. CONCLUSION ................................. . 111
THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATE--END OF CAPITALISM?
The author went to El Salvador with the Voice of the Voiceless Caravan Delegation of 1989. The original intent was to distribute millions of dollars worth of medicine, food, and clothing to the Salvadorans left homeless by war and earthquake. This was effectively blocked when the Duarte government denied the caravan entry at the Guatemalan border, despite the fact the two main sponsors, the Kennedy Center and the Ecumenical Council of Churches, had secured in advance the necessary permits and clearances.
The Delegation arrived in the midst of a war zone and witnessed bombings and a Dutch journalist's murder by government forces during a two-week stay that included the national elections and the victory of the ARENA party in 1989. After considering many approaches to presenting the data gathered, the following arrangement was chosen. It is hoped it best tells the story of the 1989 election period:
Chapter I contends that the national security state and Wallerstein's world-system view are not compatible, and introduces the theoretical perspective of revolution that will be used.
Chapter II is a concise history which demonstrates that demography, concentration of wealth by a small right wing oligarchy, and U.S. intervention have created a third world example for sociology.
Chapter III presents the communities that have formed as a result of the efforts of the military to reduce rural populations that might be guerrilla supporters. These communities will be considered as reservations to demonstrate an analogy to the U.S. American Indian experience.
Chapter IV tells the story of exceptional women who have organized. It examines three groups: the Women's Institute, UNADES (which is not technically women only), and Co-Madres.
Chapter V presents some of the formal labor unions and their story.
Chapter VI takes a look at the Catholic Church, the numerous new Protestant churches, and El Salvador University.
Chapter VII provides the insight of several people into why ARENA won the 1989 election.
Chapter VIII gives a voice to a few individuals who tell of the personal tragedies that have occurred.
Chapter IX is a critical analysis of the U.S. role in El Salvador. As the new world order confronts more and more overpopulated third world countries, a sociological perspective is needed.
Overview: Theoretical Models
El Salvador is a country that, according to the economic world-system model, is a part of the periphery (Wallerstein, 1974). In a political model, it would be described as a national security state (see below). Regardless of the perspective, El Salvador is being overwhelmed by demographic imperatives. Together they are a plausible sociological conceptualization of El Salvador.
El Salvador has seen use of military might by a tiny right-wing oligarchy to move and control a large unstable population. This has resulted in incredible repression (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, 1989). Two questions arise that concern all third world countries subjected to a national security state. Is the repression necessary to maintain such a narrow vertical control? Are military governments capable of providing the day-to-day needs of the people, so as to give themselves some legitimacy? In El Salvador, they have failed. As will be shown, most of the people's health, food, and shelter needs are met by small organizations not directly tied to the government (see Chapters 3 through 7). These volunteer organizations run the risk of being perceived as a threat to the state if they become too popular or develop too many horizontal linkages with other service organizations. In El Salvador any organization that even appears to threaten the vertical hierarchy is brutally eliminated. John Walton provides a good description:
The military-coffee planter elite was challenged continually at the polls in the 1960s and in 1972 was forced again to invalidate fraudulently an electoral sweep by the United National Opposition that included everyone from the Christian Democrats to the far left. The current revolutionary situation is a violent consequence of efforts by the old elite and the United States to maintain an unpopular and repressive state under the transparent rationale of a centrist junta and contrived elections whose popular support is belied by every development in national politics over the last fifty years. This is a revolution whose progressive fate in being withheld only by U.S. military intervention (Walton, 1984, p. 206).
Two editorials appearing in 1991 in San Diego elaborate on Walton's description of El Salvador. One editorial was written by Deborah Szekely, an International Observer of the March 10, 1991, El Salvador election. She described how difficult the voting process was. Each voter was asked to "produce an identification booklet, a voter registration receipt (less than a year old) and a voter identification card." The voting lines were long and voting "amounted to an act of will." Everyone felt the "time had come for the United States to abandon its unilateral policy of supporting the military . . . Clearly, the army and the guerrillas depend on one another for their very existence. If there were no guerrillas, the army would have had to invent them."
Although ARENA, the current party in power, went to great lengths to show that seven parties would be allowed to participate in the elections, the "theme of all the opposition leaders was the same: 'What can be done about a country kidnapped by the military?'"
The other editorial, by Charles Krauthammer (contributing editor of The New Republic), stated that George Bush has taken the United States into a period of Pax Americana.
...the case for welcoming and using our dominance to achieve American ends throughout the world is easily made.
If we want relative stability and tranquility in the world, we will have to work for it. It will come neither of itself nor as a gift from the Security Council. It will come only from an American foreign policy of "robust and difficult inter-ventionism."
An article entitled "The National Security State: Repression Within Capitalism" by Martin Oppenheimer and Jane C. Canning predicted much of what the above editorials contested, and, as will be shown, is an accurate description of El Salvador.
The national security state is meant to serve as a sociological model of macro processes that form social controls in advanced capitalist societies. According to this model as capitalist states encounter recessions that are not easily resolved, they evolve toward conservative authoritarianism. Oppenheimer and Canning felt "The Garrison State" by Harold Lasswell, having been written under the threat of Hitler's fascism and Stalin's Communism, was too severe in restricting its examination to formal elite structure. Also Orwell's 1984 and other period writers were prone to what Lipset in Political Man termed a Weberian error of structuralism. Because of these concerns they developed the national security state model.
By contrasting the national security state with fascism, they developed two sub-models which they call Type I and Type II. For the purpose of this thesis, it will be assumed the traits of a fascist state are understood. The Type I and Type II states are representative of El Salvador and the United States respectively. Rather than attempting to paraphrase Oppenheimer and Canning, their own summary of the National Security State Type I will be used.
The Type I national security state differs from fascism most clearly in
(1) While fascism grows, historically, in bitter opposition to the
established tradition of Western rationalism, and enlightenment, to liberalism and social
democracy, Type I arises in a society in which those movements have not yet become a
significant force. Rather, it develops out of the successive collapse of Bonapartism,
native liberal capitalism and the displacement of both tendencies by international
(2) While fascism appears at a point when a hegemonic capitalist bloc begins to crumble, and at a juncture when the domestic economy is in total crisis, Type I arises in a situation of permanent crisis dominated by overwhelming dependence on foreign capital, or at best inter-dependence between foreign capital as consumer, and the Type I state as guarantor, of the delivery of some extractive commodity such as oil [coffee]. The crisis is characterized by massive rural and urban unemployment for long periods. However, the narrow national bloc which has allied itself to international capital, including segments of the middle classes, maintains a consensus as to national policy.
(3) This consensus, like fascism, excludes the masses, particularly the
labor movement; but unlike fascism, it cannot even mobilize a significant plurality into a
movement on its own behalf. The free election of a party representing a Type I form of
government is inconceivable. Its "dirty" tactics, which are formally like
fascism, are used by a small minority against the vast majority: the bulk of the
population is in fact the enemy, while fascism enjoys significant mass support.
(4) While fascism must, in the interest of its militarist-expansionist
component, seek to involve and mobilize the population, Type I uses terror to discourage
participation in public life at any level (Oppenheimer, 1979, p. 10).
This is a description of a country besieged by the military and a foreign power, as Szekely and Walton have described El Salvador.
One other concept adds an important dimension to the above theoretical framework. The military has forced much of the rural population of El Salvador to live in urban communities. These communities (see Chapter III) reminded the author of American Indian reservations. The model that conceptualizes the practice of forcing peasants to live in small urban areas will be called neo-reservationism.
Neo-reservationism has a definite United States input because of the
dominance of the U.S. in training military and police institutions throughout the third
world. The national security state is being developed along lines that suggest the
programs used by the power oligarchy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are now
being implemented on a world scale. The have-nots are being restricted to certain
impoverished territories, reminiscent of the American Indian reservations.
Statement of the Problem
When the United States assumed the top core position in 1945, it was in a historically unique situation. The U.S. was on top of the world economically. Much of the new wealth had come from arms sales. With the war over, a large capital investment advantage was threatened. What should be done with the munitions factories in a time of peace? Another question became the cornerstone of American policy. How was the United States to keep its relative position of wealth?
The national security state became the political model for all non-communist countries that were targeted for improvement of their own internal security. By working with existing regimes, the status quo would be maintained and perhaps improved. The United States provided direct aid, training of police and military, and equipment.
In accepting any government that was not communist, U.S. policy became tied in with some of the most repressive regimes in history. The military and police institute on the Potomac has trained over a million officers worldwide (Lobe, 1987). The United States has provided the most advanced counter-insurgency training and equipment to virtually any non-communist government promising a stable order.
The division of the world into internally stable regions suggests an analogy to the U.S. ancestral solution to the American Indian problem. The reservation policy included the control of population movement beyond national borders through the use of passports and entry visas. Within nations similar strategies of control are used as well as everything from torture to organizations such as El Salvador's Death Squad. In El Salvador, as in Vietnam, large populations were moved out of trouble spots and into safe communities--neo-reservations--where they could be more easily controlled. There are many ways of analyzing this relocation process. But a neo-reservation model of the international world order is a powerful metaphor.
To the extent a neo-reservation policy is being pursued by the United States government and corporations it is very risky. The requirement of capitalism to expand was satisfied through confiscated land, immigration, and exploitation in the 18th and 19th centuries. Reservations severely reduced native populations and eliminated cultures. In the 20th century, the attempt of the national security state to contain third world populations means removing the periphery from exploitation. In fact, the periphery has become a drain on American resources. Military equipment and food supplies are "sold" through a process that requires the U.S. to first loan the money to the government. International debt has reached the point where most third world countries have to borrow to make interest payments. These countries are no longer being exploited in the capitalist sense. They are just being repressed.
This places the national security model in contradiction to the world-system model rather than a subunit of it. For every third world country that becomes an economic and military dependent, the core countries have lost an exploitable resource. This progression has now reached the stage where most of the first world is finding its share of the wealth shrinking, not only relatively but absolutely as internal populations are also moved from the semi-periphery to the periphery in a process Hechter called internal colonialism.
Even in a small country like El Salvador there are a large number of social institutions that create and perpetuate social stratification. For the most part, these institutions have not been challenged. The few reformist governments were quickly overthrown by conservative forces (see Chapter II). The social institutions are in place to assure that the flow of resources, together with positional rewards, match each group's expectations of need in relation to their power. When this occurs, the society functions in a collaborative atmosphere. In El Salvador, the state has been unable to distribute resources and provide basic services to the vast majority of its population.
The only remaining state power, maintained with tremendous outside help, has been an artificial authority totally dependent upon the power of coercion. This coercive power has gathered into a small oligarchy that uses the military and police to maintain and increase their wealth. By examining the mobile and politically active groups that are working within El Salvador to provide the services normally provided by a legitimate state, important issues of revolutionary situations will be made apparent (Skocpol, 1979, p. 32).
That a few rich Salvadoran families were able to exploit the "Red Scare" mentality of the United States in the late 1970s and 80s is beyond question. But to conceptualize the conflict as one between the economic decisions of power elites in core states (as Wallerstein's world-system suggests) or as a national security state, sets up a crucial test between two powerful analyses of American imperialism and neo-colonialism. Is the first world core sacrificing continued capitalist expansion in favor of establishing national security states that act as reservations for the poor of the third world?
The United States grew to be the largest power of the core countries during World War II. Wallerstein says from 1945 to 1967 the control was almost unilateral. The method of subjugating the American Indian appealed to the U.S. when it was not a world power. Is it possible that it felt a similar approach would be the best means of assuring its new dominance as the world power?
A factor that has been a big part of the El Salvador experience is the fact that twenty percent of the population has fled the country for the better opportunities of another. This migration diffused the pressure on the non-reformist government and also denied the opposition access to some of the country's most talented people. It is an important constraint in utilizing El Salvador as a typical representative of the ongoing conflict between the world-system and the national security state, not only because over three hundred thousand skilled people have opted to leave, but also because the people who have migrated away are sending back money and organizing political action groups within their new countries. While the United States government has spent $4 billion in military and economic aid in El Salvador in a decade, Salvadorans living in the U.S. have sent $1.3 billion a year back to families and organizations in El Salvador (Montes, 1988).
A view that limits itself strictly to (objective) statistical information is not capable of interpreting the perspective of members of the various non-government organizations that have formed to help the people of El Salvador. There is empirical data such as body counts, bombed headquarters and even destroyed communities. There are relations between the groups and their clients, peers, and superiors. To help understand each group's perspective, personal accounts of their actions and views will be offered.
What else does this (irrationality) mean except that God exists for the
man to whom the world is non-rational and who is therefore non-rational himself? In other
words, non-rationality is God's existence (Marx, 1835, p. 66).
Or, as the paleontologist Gould noted when discussing evolution, rather than evolution (the prevailing theory in paleontology) the process of decimation of life occurred. And at the heart of decimation is contingency.
Little quirks at the outset, occurring for no particular reason,
unleash cascades of consequences that make a particular future seem inevitable in
retrospect. But the slightest early nudge contacts a different groove, and history veers
into another plausible channel, diverging continually from its original pathway. The end
results are so different, the initial perturbation so apparently trivial (Gould, 1989, p.
So often it was the empirically unknowable contribution that made the change (such as Duarte's hugging of Edward Kennedy--see Chapter VII). Those with the will to power are thwarted by the vast numbers of humanity, the imprecision of their information, and the imperfection of their theory. It is through bureaucracies and its institutions that the means for the few to dominate are provided.
In addition to the interaction of world-system and national security state models, an attempt will be made to portray the groups within the context of their political environment as provided by Skocpol. In El Salvador the state is a coercive organization that has become autonomous from socioeconomic interests and structures. The state's failure to provide basic services has resulted in the formation of essentially nonvoluntarist organizations that meet some of the needs of the people (see Chapters 4, 5, and 6). The coercive state in El Salvador is supported primarily by the United States aid. Many of the non-state associations receive funding and training from international interests such as Solidarity and relief organizations (Skocpol, 1979, p. 14).
This is also reflected in Walton's model of revolution which requires: 1) a context of uneven economic development; 2) the capability to mobilize protest; 3) modernization crises and coalitions; and
4) an ineffective state (Walton, 1984, p. 161).
Crane Brinton's model dictates that the country be on the upgrade economically. Revolutionary movements seem to originate in the discontents of not unprosperous people who feel restraint, cramp, annoyance, rather than actual crushing oppression. There would be definite and very bitter class antagonisms which saw the allegiance of the intellectuals transferring from the dominant class to the revolutionary class. Like Walton, Brinton sees the government machinery would have to be clearly inefficient, at least partly because of new conditions that put an intolerable strain on governmental machinery adapted to simpler, more primitive conditions. Finally, individuals of the old ruling class would come to distrust themselves, or lose faith in the traditions and habits of their class, and therefore become politically inept (Brinton, 1965, pp. 251-2).
Thus we see that certain economic grievances--usually not in the form of economic distress, but rather a feeling on the part of some of the chief enterprising groups that their opportunities for getting on in this world are unduly limited by political arrangements--would seem to be one of the symptoms of revolution (Brinton, 1965, p. 34).
These models will be supported by the ethnographic material presented
in the following Chapters. Much of the material is presented as the story of the people
involved in non-state organizations. The author's use of videotape, personal interviews,
and participant observation, combined with over two years of graduate research, will show
that El Salvador is a type I national security state which has been costly in terms of
capitalist investments and human life.
El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. In 1991, the population is around 5,250,000. The people live in a 150-by-60 mile strip, about the size of Massachusetts. El Salvador is located south of Guatemala, west of Honduras, and has a long Pacific Ocean coastline. It is the only Central American country without a Caribbean coast.
El Salvador was named for "The Savior" by the sixteenth-century Spaniards. Central America was subjugated by Pedro de Alvarado, who had a reputation for cruelty. Through disease and the institution of encomienda, almost one-third of the Indian population was killed, until 1571 when the Pope reversed his position and declared the Indians a protected population.
Spain controlled the area as the Kingdom of Guatemala until 1821, when Mexico achieved independence. Mexico tried to keep the Kingdom of Guatemala and succeeded for a few years. The city of San Salvador resisted the new Mexican dominance and was placed under siege by Mexico and Guatemala. In 1823, the siege was successful, but Mexico City was unable to maintain power. In the resulting disintegration San Salvador survived as the chief supporter of the concept of a United Provinces of Central America. This loose hegemony broke up in the 1840s.
Lines of communication and trade were not well developed. The major population areas lie in fertile valleys separated by very hilly terrain and rivers. This geographic feature prevented trade routes other than by sea. The sea routes were utilized primarily as international ports. However, the hilly countryside created an ideal setting for small villages and subsistence farmers.
Without economic incentive, there was little reason to overpopulate a central region. Instead, a lifestyle very much like the ancestral Pipil Indians', with communal sharing and small tribes, continued into the 1800s.
El Salvador's chief resource is its rich volcanic soil. Crop yields in El Salvador are consistently higher than its neighbors' because of the rich soil. There are no known mineral or petroleum deposits of significance.
The Indian (Pipil) population had been encouraged by the Spaniards to plant dyes such as indigo for export wealth. When chemical-based dyes replaced indigo, the international community encouraged coffee as the dominant crop. As coffee was grown in the highlands, previously occupied farms had to be converted to plantations to produce large export crops. In most Caribbean countries, in contrast to El Salvador, the international companies such as the United Farm Company chose to grow bananas, a lowland crop. In these countries, land was readily available (until cholera was cured) and so fewer peasants were displaced.
As coffee became the sole source of export wealth, small farms were expropriated by government decree (1879 - 1882). The decree specifically banned the communal Indian lands that had been occupied for centuries. This represented the last rich agricultural land in El Salvador and the ruling oligarchy acquired it by making communal ownership illegal. Several uprisings in protest were brutally extinguished. The concentration of arable lands into rich coffee plantations benefitted a few wealthy families to the detriment of everyone else. Eventually these unenlightened policies created a wealthy class known as the Fourteen Families.
These families continued to acquire land with their wealth from the coffee crops. Poor families either sold land at low prices or were removed in order to make contiguous plantations. The plantations continued to grow with each passing season. The coffee highland plantations eventually started planting even marginal agricultural land. Coffee is a sturdy crop. However, it is not a poor man's crop, since it requires five years before good production. Harvesting the coffee bean is labor intensive for only two months a year.
Since coffee offered only seasonal work, some of the displaced small farmers chose to live in champas around the plantation, surviving on garden plots and the plantation work. The majority of families, however, were forced to move. Some moved into very marginal hilly areas between Honduras and El Salvador. Others relocated to the coastal plain.
The Salvadoran coast is hot and humid with a great deal of marshlands. The families that relocated drained marshes and put up with malaria and cholera to start their new farms. Early population studies show an interesting trend in El Salvador. In the early 1900s, landless families had an average number of births of 9.61. Families with farms larger than 3.5 hectares averaged 7.93. The higher birth rate is directly related to the higher mortality rate of the landless families. Salvadoran families tend to be large, but have an historical trend of even more births when their children are threatened.
In 1931, with the backing of the progressive minority within the oligarchy, Arturo Araujo was elected president and promised to reform the country. He was quickly deposed by his Vice President, General Martinez (for whom the right-wing death squads are named). The coffee landlords had governed El Salvador for over a hundred years. When the oligarchy asked the military to step in they did and never relinquished control. This is a frequently encountered problem with the creation of a national security state.
In the late 1920s, Augustin Farabundo Marti (after whom the FMLN is named), middle-class businessmen (including Duarte's father), professionals, and the church started organizing displaced people. In May of 1932, a May Day march through San Salvador was held, with over 80,000 people demanding a minimum wage and relief centers for the unemployed. This march alarmed the elite. A fascist movement within the ruling oligarchy organized to replace the few elite progressives. Three days before the march Martinez arrested the leaders. Although some professionals were aware of the arrest, the vast majority of peasants were not. They marched unarmed into a trap. When the army opened fire, between six thousand and ten thousand were killed.
In the next two weeks, an additional twenty thousand were hunted down and slaughtered. This is known as "La Mantanza," the slaughter. In three weeks, four percent of the population was killed. In addition, the remaining Indians were forced to give up their culture, dress, and language by official decree.
The plantations continued to acquire even marginal land around them. But as coffee prices dropped due to the international competitive market the wealthy families sought to diversify into other crops. The coastal plains, though useless for coffee, became attractive for rice, sugar, and cotton. So the rich families once again bought out or displaced small farmers. This continued until almost all the arable land was held by 1.9 percent of the population.
But rice, sugar, and cotton are not as labor intensive as coffee. With no new land to move onto, the displaced sought work in the urban area or migrated out of El Salvador. Honduras was the most common destination.
The peasants who moved to cities, primarily San Salvador, found industries such as food processing, chemical/petroleum products, and textiles becoming an important part of the economy. The industries never developed as fast as the rural population was displaced, and unemployment levels varied between twenty percent and forty percent. In fact, the combined value of industry and the new crops never exceeded the value of exported coffee.
In 1944 students, with labor and some progressive military officers, overthrew Martinez and formed the Party of Democratic Revolutionary Unification (PRUD). Under Colonel Oscar Osorio, new economic reforms were initiated. For the first time, a large U.S. industrial investment was made. Despite the reforms, repression continued, officially to maximize opportunities for economic reform. The reforms helped create a small working and middle class.
In 1961, the Central American Common Market was created, allowing free trade opportunities throughout the region and the U.S. In 1962, PRUD reorganized as the Party of National Conciliation (PCN). The reorganization occurred at least in part to make it appear that a new effort was being made to improve conditions. PRUD had not succeeded in raising the standard of living, despite its internationally condemned repression to enforce reforms.
Colonel Rivera became the new PCN president. In an attempt to broaden the government's power base, the PCN allowed competing parties to form and participate. The Christian Democratic Party (PDC) was started amongst a variety of interest groups, including professionals, educated elite, students, and the small middle class. It soon became the largest opposition party. That same year, 1962, Jose Napoleon Duarte, running as a PDC candidate, was elected mayor of San Salvador.
The industrial boom of the 1960s was largely financed by the agriculturally rich and U.S. investors. But the investment came well into the capital-intensive technological revolution. The investments used modern capitalist knowledge that capital is cheaper than labor. Consequently in the 1960s manufacturing grew by twenty-four percent while employment increased only six percent. Although mass repression had been necessary to deal with the many displaced small farmers and lack of work opportunity, the industrial growth occurred with no concern for employment.
El Salvador became one of the most undernourished countries in the world as more and more of the country's arable land was utilized by large landowners for exports instead of food. The loss of subsistence farming, together with a lack of work that would pay enough to allow importation of food, meant a large percentage of Salvadorans (United Nation statistics put it around forty percent) found themselves unable to feed their families adequately.
Duarte became the presidential candidate of the Christian Democrats with Ungo, a Social Democrat, as his vice presidential candidate for the 1970 National Elections. This centrist coalition seemed to have the momentum to get elected. But they suffered a severe setback in the 1969 "Soccer War" with Honduras. The military regained dominance as it fought the 100-day war. The economic conditions in El Salvador had caused a large migration to Honduras, which the Hondurans perceived as a threat to their economy and culture. Many of the Salvadorans in Honduras had been recruited in San Salvador by the United Fruit Company, which favored Salvadoran workers over the local population. Salvadorans accounted for thirty percent of all United Fruit Company employees in Honduras. Of the three hundred thousand Salvadorans living in Honduras, eighty thousand worked in agriculture (Durham, p. 126). From 1932 to 1969, over twelve percent of El Salvador's population migrated to Honduras. This influx of workers created hard feelings amongst Hondurans who felt they were losing jobs and some of their culture to the Salvadorans. Within a week of an intense international Soccer competition, the Honduran government started deporting Salvadorans. The "Soccer War" caused approximately one hundred thousand Salvadorans to leave Honduras in 1969 and reenter their own country, where they were treated as unwanted refugees.
The status of many of these families is still not resolved and is an indicator of the fate of returnees today. Unless connected politically, it can be very difficult for a returning deportee to get a national identification booklet (ID) if he or she had lost their previous ID (as, for example, in an earthquake) or did not vote in the latest election.
Most of the reasons for the government not accepting Salvadorans back are political. The reasoning is that if these people had left because of the situation, surely they would become part of the problem if they returned. Other reasons were economic. With a huge unemployed population, how could the government deal with the large numbers that were showing up without jobs or homes?
Duarte and Ungo ran again in 1972 and won the popular vote. However, the Party of National Conciliation declared itself the victor and Colonel Molina became president. The voter turnout was expected to give Duarte about 200,000 votes. The military felt 300,000 would be enough and had stuffed ballots ensuring their win. But Duarte ended up with 340,000. Despite new stuffing, the military was unable to beat this figure. Faced with a certain loss, the military just declared itself the winner and arrested Duarte and severely beat him (even as his father had been arrested by Martinez).
Because of international attention, Duarte was exiled rather than killed. He left to receive plastic surgery (in Venezuela) and recover from his beating (though he lost the ends of three fingers). In 1974, he was allowed to return. He was greeted at the airport by thousands. Due to this demonstration of his continued popularity he was immediately exiled again. Duarte then flew to Washington, D.C., and asked Senators Mondale and Kennedy to intercede for a fair election. But there was no interest in Washington until after the 1979 Sandinista uprising in Nicaragua.
In 1977, General Carlos Romero replaced Molina. As a hard-right dictator, he initiated the November 25, 1977, Law of Defense and Guarantee of Public Order, which "empowered the government to eliminate any voice, any person or group, that it found troublesome" (Romero, 1985, p. 19).
In Miami, where most of the rich Salvadorans live, ten million dollars was raised to develop a secret counter-insurgency force to oppose reformists within the military, the guerrillas, and liberal political parties. A young colonel from the intelligence branch was recruited to head this force. His name was Roberto D'Aubuisson. A select group was recruited and transferred to Guatemala, where they were trained by former members of the French Secret Army Organization. These experts, with experience in Angola, made up a complete plan which included everything from the Death Squad to the organizational plan for a new ARENA Party (Pyes, 1983).
During the first months of 1979, the Salvadoran security forces arrested an average of three people every two days "and on the average killed another four" (Romero, 1985, p. 13). With the Sandinista overthrow of Somoza in July 1979 as proof it could be done, and popular opposition to PCN President Carlos Romero, there was a military coup in October 1979. Duarte and Ungo were selected as two civilians to sit with three military personnel in a ruling junta. It soon became a figurehead junta only, as the military remained firmly in control.
Just after the new junta was in place a demonstration was held in San Salvador. On October 29, 1979, over thirty unarmed peasants were shot while marching. In what was to become a schism within the Catholic Church, many priests refused the request of rural out-of-towners for a funeral. Father Rogelio Ponseele accepted and a mass funeral was held at the Church of the Rosary, with thirty uncovered bodies piled around the altar. Father Rogelio went on to become one of the new Marxist-Catholic priests who left the strict order of the church to participate in the guerrilla movement (Vigil, 1989, p. 28).
In January 1980 all civilian leaders in and around the ruling junta resigned. Two hundred thousand people marched through San Salvador to protest the mass murders which were occurring. The military junta fell apart and a second, again with civilians and military, was formed. It soon failed. Also in 1980, Archbishop Romero called for junior officers and troops to disregard immoral orders. A third junta was formed. On March 23, 1980, Archbishop Romero was assassinated while celebrating mass, apparently as a direct response to his political demands. Then, as the world watched on television, the military opened fire and slaughtered hundreds attending his funeral. While rumors abound that D'Aubuisson personally ordered Romero's death, no charges were filed.
On April 2, 1980, the U.S. under President Carter certified that progress was being made toward civil rights and released almost six million dollars in military aid. On April 18, 1980, the largest march ever in El Salvador celebrated the forming of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR).
On May 7, 1980, D'Aubuisson was arrested in El Salvador by reformists within the Armed Forces. In his briefcase were the plans made in Guatemala in 1979. Everything that had happened in 1979 and early 1980 was detailed. The notebook even contained names of monetary supporters as well as the locations of caches of arms. Copies were, almost immediately, sent to Washington (although there is still official denial of receipt) (Pyes, 1983).
On May 14, 1980, over six hundred peasants were slaughtered by Salvadoran and Honduran Armed Forces. In June, a general strike, called a "paro," was held that stopped the country for three days. The military responded by taking over El Salvador University, killing fifty professors and students. The University remained closed for two years.
In 1980, a land reform called "The Land of The Tiller" was inaugurated in an attempt by the junta to gain some broad based support and to meet some demands of the U.S. The reform required the largest landowners to choose up to twenty percent of their land and allow it to be sold. The land was redistributed to 450,000 people through 1983. To assist in the reform the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) of the AFL-CIO sent Michael Hammer and Mark David. These two Americans and a Salvadoran, Mose Viera, the head of the Land Reform Institute for the Government of El Salvador, were having dinner at the Sheraton in El Salvador when a classmate of D'Aubuisson's, Major Moran, (the head of military intelligence) spotted them. He pointed them out to a wealthy landowner, Hans Christ. According to the AIFLD investigation, Hans Christ led two guardsmen to the trio and ordered them executed. They were. Despite firm evidence and eyewitnesses no one was tried. Amazingly, Hans Christ now resides in Miami under his own name, a wealthy absentee landowner (Kennedy, 1984).
In 1981, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front's (FMLN) final offensive suffered a massive defeat. At the time, the ratio of guerrillas to armed forces was about 1 to 1.5. The guerrillas were attacking conventionally in battalion or greater strength. Victory appeared to be theirs and measures were taken to establish a provisional government. In a striking reversal, the U.S. trained and equipped air force saved the day for the government forces in a battle demonstrating the need for air superiority in conventional modern warfare.
At least in part because of the situation in Nicaragua, the Salvadoran military was built up by the U.S. despite international condemnation. The FMLN was forced to adopt guerrilla tactics. These tactics created electrical outages (eight per day in San Salvador) and destroyed 55 of the nation's 260 bridges. Officials were assassinated. Over two hundred buses were burnt in 1982 alone.
During the 1980s the military academy class of 1965-66, known as the Tandona, came to power. Of the forty-six classmates, three are generals and twenty-six are colonels. They are the Joint Chiefs of Staff and have been responsible the war and lack of reform. They have all received extra training through special U.S. schools and programs.
It is an anomaly in most military High Commands to have one class dominate so thoroughly. There usually is some class rivalry or civilian sector control that would prevent such a small group of people from taking over the entire armed forces. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to solving the nuns's murders or the more recent Jesuit murders has been the inability to break the bond of the High Command and get someone to testify. Despite this the prosecuting attorneys have publicly and through court documents formally accused the High Command of the murders. The U.S. wants these highly publicized murders solved but has little power to change the justice system or control the military they established. One of the prosecutor's aids has been the rivalry from later military classes that have been thwarted by the Tandona occupying all the top positions for so many years. The High Command is seen as allowing lower rank officers to be the scapegoat to insulate themselves. All later classes have been unable to advance normally through the top ranks. These classes are not that loyal.
Nonetheless, how can the people in power be tried? It won't be possible barring a reform of the military. El Salvador's judicial system, while never very strong, has been shattered by the years of war. For a decade any judge that made a ruling was executed by the side ruled against, and ninety-seven percent of all jury trials fail because of a lack of jurors (El Rescate, El Mundo 1/21/91).
The High Command is also able to control the movement of all Salvadorans within the country. Just walking down Roosevelt (a main street in San Salvador) might require four different military checkpoints. Every citizen is required to carry a national ID. This ID must be presented and harassment might occur for any reason. One of the most common is the failure to have voted in the last election. The FMLN has frequently called for its supporters to boycott elections. So a nonvoter might be accused of being a subversive or FMLN supporter. Of course, any business or farm not in the good graces of the High Command, or the regional military authority, might have a great deal of trouble just shipping its product. "What can be done about a country kidnapped by the military?"
ARENA--The Nationalist Republican Alliance
In 1982, under pressure from the U.S. Congress, President Reagan forced the ruling military junta to hold a Constitutional Election. Despite attempts by the FMLN to keep voters away, almost all registered voters voted, and the ARENA party won a majority of seats (see Chapter VII). Their victory was unacceptable to the U.S. media so soon after Archbishop Romero's assassination. By threatening to withhold aid, the U.S. forced the majority ARENA Congress to nominate centrist Alvaro Magana provisional President rather than Roberto D'Aubuisson.
On March 23, 1983, a special Senate Foreign Operations subcommittee met to discuss El Salvador. Senators Robert Kasten, Mark Hatfield, Dennis De Concini, Daniel Inoye, and Jeremiah Denton, and Secretary of State Schultz discussed the "El Salvador Military and Economic Reprogramming." Although there were many "shout and scream" disagreements, they agreed to
1. develop a larger military to protect society at large from an alien insurgent victory,
2. hold free and open elections,
3. have more regional participation,
4. send money, not U.S. troops, limiting U.S. personnel to 55, and
5. require the successful prosecution of the murderers of four nuns.
In defense of the Duarte regime, Senator Denton said:
It is attacked by those who know full well that the only alternatives
are a brutal Communist dictatorship from the left or a truly reactionary and oppressive
regime from the right.
And Secretary of State Schultz proclaimed:
Almost immediately after the Sandinista takeover in Nicaragua, El Salvador became a target, with the expectation that Communist bloc training and supplies would bring a quick military victory to Cuban backed extremists.
Between 1979 and 1984, some of the greatest labor unrest occurred. It is dramatically revealed in the exports, which before 1979 exceeded $1 billion per year but by 1984 fell to $600 million. At the same time, unemployment rose to over forty percent.
In 1984, Duarte beat D'Aubuisson in the presidential election fifty-four percent to forty-six percent with a large turnout. Despite winning, Duarte found many constraints on his Presidency. The right still controlled the Death Squad, and the military was still controlled by the Tandona. Also, the U.S. was delivering a tremendous amount of aid, most with conditions, through a bewildering variety of agencies, including covert and still untraced aid through the CIA and NSA. In 1984, the U.S. gave El Salvador $206 million in direct military aid. This is in contrast to $1.7 billion to Israel and $1.3 billion to Egypt that year.
Perhaps because of the size of aid in relation to the perceived global situation, the best military and economic advisors were never sent to El Salvador (Bacevich, 1988, p. 16). One of the most unfortunate consequences of this was the way money was distributed. Technically, the U.S. Ambassador had control of most of the economic aid. The Ambassador also could deny entry to any American wishing to enter El Salvador. Ambassador White used this power. In fact, he denied entry to the General in charge of CINCSOUTH (Commander in Chief South), responsible for distributing most of the military aid (Bacevich, 1988, p. 15). Despite the obvious need, there was never any attempt to link a military plan to an economic recovery. Both of these individuals were eventually reassigned and relations between the two forms of aid have improved. However, at least $4 billion have been spent in a decade while the standard of living declined.
In October 1986, a devastating earthquake struck the "Valley of Hammocks," the pre-conquistador name for the valley in which San Salvador is located. The earthquake caused at least $1 billion in economic damage and also destroyed thousands of homes. Whole neighborhoods were leveled. Communities that were already overcrowded by the mass of campesinos forced or bussed in from the countryside by the civil war were inundated by these new homeless people (Encyclopedia Americana, 1988).
With the desperate plight caused by the so-called "low-intensity war," the eighty percent of Salvadorans who are near or below poverty are poorer than ever. When Duarte developed cancer and new elections were held in 1989, the ARENA Party won despite every U.S. effort (see Chapter VII).
The political situation in El Salvador is a common one in Central America. There has been a gathering of wealth and land by a few families. Their attempts to hold onto the wealth resulted in a military state that practiced repression. The lack of usual state provided services mobilized organizations outside of the state which have become politically active. The state became a vertical hierarchy with coercion as its primary tool.
The guerrilla warfare quickly epitomized the efforts taught in "The Mini-Manual for Urban Guerrilla Warfare" written by Carlos Marighella in 1969. The essence of this strategy is to use any means possible to disrupt the economy so the general population becomes critically impoverished, and, at the same time, present the established government as a repressive inhumane force that is murdering civilians and suspected guerrillas without trials.
Of course, the fact that the U.S.S.R. spent $4 billion in Nicaragua and
the U.S. spent $4 billion in El Salvador in a decade meant plenty of arms for everyone.
This created intolerable living conditions in both countries. To get a sense of the
conditions, it is important to realize that while the guerrillas in El Salvador have
killed ten thousand people, the government has killed seventy thousand.
The following information was gathered in person during a trip to El Salvador in March of 1989. When allowed, the interview was recorded. Most of the information was taken in short-hand (the author's). The author's Spanish is poor and various English/Spanish translators were used to conduct the interviews. Last names are rarely cited for the protection of those who spoke to the author. In some cases it was necessary to use pseudonyms.
Even before the war started in 1980, huts called "champas" were built on government or private land. The war aggravated the situation as, in a military action reminiscent of Vietnam, the Salvadoran military had taken to reducing whole villages to nonhabitable bomb craters if the inhabitants were suspected of being guerrilla sympathizers. More and more people came to existing urban communities from bombed out villages. Others came because they were evicted when absentee owners (who for the most part live in Miami) used the
military to reclaim their land and had the former tenants bussed to reservations in El Salvador.
A further catalyst to the formation of communities was the 1986 earthquake, which destroyed half of San Salvador. People were left homeless in the streets. With the middle classes also busy trying to recover from the quake (see "Popotlan," below), the street people looked to themselves, the church, and the international community for help. This assistance was, for the most part, given to the poor without strings attached.
Community Soledad is a typical urban reservation. This community is located next to the San Salvador dump, and pilfering trash ("dump recovery") is the main source of income. The children bring plastic, bottles, and steel to the most guarded possession of the village - a scale. A scrap buyer comes by at regular intervals and purchases.
The people are very poor. Unbroken shoelaces are generally a good indicator of wealth in many of these communities. Even the adults of Soledad wear torn shoes with broken laces. However, it is important to temper the description of these people with how happy they appeared. Even an elder male with outside employment who earned $30 a month was able to say he has had a good life. Their main grievance is the uncertainty of their situation, they have no legal title to the land and so might be evicted.
About forty years ago a widow invited the homeless to settle on a few acres of her land. Some of the original families from this settlement are still alive and have watched their children grow up and start families of their own without ever leaving the community. Unfortunately, the widow recently passed away intestate. The caretaker is a drug addict and wants to displace the people so the property can be sold. UNADES (see Chapter IV) feels such a sale would be unlikely except for the fact that the caretaker has a friend in the Air Force. The Air Force saved the government in the "Final Conflict" and so seems to have much of the power. Also, there may be some connection to the fact that more Air Force personnel receive training in the U.S. than the other armed services.
The widow had a small hut on the top of the hill that had electricity. Salvaging from the dump, the people have been able to put in a rudimentary electrical system into most of the champas. Although light fixtures are plentiful from the dump, light bulbs are scarce and are closely guarded (removed and hidden when not in use). Supposedly, there was a faucet at one time but they haven't had running water in over thirty years. It was interesting to see so much electricity, even old black and white televisions (undoubtedly salvaged from the dump) in a village that had no water and could not afford shoes.
Developing a leadership within the community is very difficult as most of the energy is spent on daily survival, such as hauling water and making pan. Pan is a subsistence food distributed daily throughout the urban areas by relief agencies (not the state). It looks like corn mash and is brought into the communities in large buckets. The women immediately begin making little loafs that resemble thick tortillas. These are stacked for eventual cooking. Most cooking is done on an open flame with the use of a sheet of metal for a grill. Almost anything combustible will be used for the fire, a practice which contributes to a heavy haze around the urban areas. The pan is eaten after being fried. The poorer communities will eat only pan for several days at a time until someone gets work and buys beans or some vegetables.
Even the poorest communities have ducks, chickens, dogs, and goats. At the next economic level, pigs are added. The marketplace is filled with cheap fruit from the tropical countryside--bananas, guava, avocados, pineapple, and mango were all in season when the author was there. It is more difficult to find anything requiring cultivation, such as vegetables.
A "marriage" occurs when two people move in together. No one had registered a marriage or even gotten the church to perform a wedding in the memories of the oldest residents. Some children meet in school. Depending on each family's resources, an individual might move out of Community Soledad and into the other's community. Otherwise many of the families are second and third generation within Community Soledad.
The state schools require a uniform. This is a precious possession which is sometimes shared by children (they go to school on alternate days) until it is outgrown. If there are no larger uniforms available in the community, that is the end of the school years. The school is within walking distance and most of the children were eager to demonstrate what they had learned. At the time the author was there, the most advanced boys had reached the 6th grade. Some of the girls were in 9th grade. The students seemed to have learned the 3 R's well.
It is very evident how huge the young population is. There are ten or fifteen youngsters under the age of ten for every one person over fifty. It is because of this the United Nations sees El Salvador's population doubling in the next twenty-five years.
The mothers are often very young (as young as twelve). Their children seem to be always playing around them as they make pan, do laundry (by hand), clean, or visit.
Popotlan was built entirely by middle-class residents who were left homeless by the 1986 earthquake. It took an average of eight months of working weekends to build one five-meter-square brick house. The state provided electricity, sewer, and water. The land and building materials were purchased through a loan from an internationally funded non-profit state entity called Fundacal.
To give a perspective on the building costs, Miguel, a leader of the community, stated that a house would cost 500 colones for material, plus 20,000 colones for a corner lot or 14,000 for 64 square meters of land. Miguel's pay was 6.20 colones a day.
The loans were originally at a fixed five percent annual interest rate. However, new provisions were added after construction that raised the interest to ten percent on missed payments. A pattern was discerned in the loans of some of the leaders of the community. If one payment was missed, the interest rate on the delinquent payment went up to as high as thirty-four percent. When the homeowner could not meet the increased payment, the entire loan became due and payable and foreclosure proceedings were initiated.
To help their neighborhood, the community leaders went to UNADES (see Chapter IV). Soon all the leaders of Popotlan were notified that their properties had been foreclosed upon and they were being evicted. In a massive UNADES effort, three different communities marched out to meet the military who came to evict the Popotlan leaders. This effort was successful. Later, however, Jose Miguel Martinez (one of the leaders of Popotlan) was detained. He had been jailed for trespassing in the house he built, and his family was evicted.
In 1989, Popotlan had twenty-four classrooms and twelve teachers for its five thousand school children.
Popotlan was part of a $50 million project, or roughly five percent of the whole Salvadoran budget that was spent on approximately ten percent of the homeless.
September 5th Community
The September 5th Community was formed when approximately forty families seized a small plot of land near the richest part of San Salvador. The military confiscated their building materials and told them they were evicted. Children and babies were left totally without shelter. The army decided not to forcibly remove them from the land itself, despite complaints from their rich neighbors. Because they were squatting, without any shelters, they were often called guerrillas. Slowly they rebuilt using cardboard and some corrugated tin. They asked ANDA (the water authority) to put in a faucet but were told it would cost 4000 colones. Their nearest neighbor had twelve faucets just in her flower garden.
When they had been there a year without water they went to UNADES for help. With its second anniversary approaching, UNADES agreed to help them take the water.
On September 15, hundreds of people came and blocked the road and
started hammering up the tarmac to gain access to the water main (two-inch PVC). A
complaint of guerrilla activity was made to the military, which came with tanks. In a
typical UNADES tactic, they were confronted by women and children. The military left and
the connection was made.
As repression grew stronger during the 1980s, women gathered together in nonpolitical attempts to fight for the right to help the most impoverished communities. Three such groups are the Women's Institute, UNADES, and Co-Madres. Although women are not immune from Death Squad activities, they do believe that there is great international pressure on the government to avoid killing unarmed women.
This very difficult task has seen some heroic efforts. The government frequently confiscates or burns medical supplies being delivered to churches, claiming it would have ended up in guerrilla camps. Also, the attempt to remain nonpolitical is hampered by the incredible number of impoverished recipients, causing a situation where any organizing activity could be tempted to draw on the festering anti-authority emotions. Of special note is that UNADES has been publicly branded as communist sympathizers (El Diario de Hoy, June 8, 1989, p. 1).
One of the astonishing statistics about El Salvador is that sixty-five percent of the female population is either pregnant, nursing, or under six years of age (El Rescate, April 1991, p.3). Women play an important role in El Salvador as mothers, guerrilla fighters, and political activists, because international community looks harshly upon any government actions that hurt women and children. Largely due to this men are completely excluded from the Women's Institute. The Institute's goals are to raise the consciousness of the vast majority of women in the country. They offer health education, job training, and reading and writing classes.
The method they use is called popular education. They give workshops in community health and how to set up and work in a co-op. The workshops are held within the community itself. One of the first things they do is health care and sanitation clinics. This might involve actually designating a champa as the care facility and moving or establishing a latrine for the community. This is literally a life saving work--the El Salvador Ministry of Health says that fifty-five of every hundred babies dies before the age of one (El Rescate, April 1991, p.5), almost all from simple things like diarrhea or dehydration.
One of the goals currently pursued by the Women's Institute, with the help of international women's organizations, is the establishment of a legal assistance center. Although they are concerned by and working on the war issues, they have taken the issue of domestic violence (battery) as one of their top legal priorities. Another top priority is birth control. Abortion is illegal but available to those who have money.
Many of El Salvador's laws date back to the 1800s and consequently the Women's Institute is very active in the constitutional reform movement. Discrimination, especially in the work place, is one of the biggest complaints. Sewing factories similar to the sweat shops of old are just one of the many situations that need changing. The primary political affiliation is with the Party for Democratic Convergence.
The Institute helped organize and also marched in the March 8, 1989, International Women's Day parade. The Institute also presented a platform to the legislature targeting the laws in most need of change. One of the laws is the military press gang. El Salvador does not have a draft and only twenty-five percent of the military re-ups at the end of their four-year service. Consequently, the military has been allowed to go into rural and poor urban communities and grab young men (some only sixteen years old). Together with Co-Madres, the Institute tried, through a demonstration, to deny the military the pressgang tactic of recruitment. Several members were arrested. The remaining women surrounded the jail for three days before getting members out.
The Institute is trying to form an umbrella organization for all professional women. The more advanced women seem less willing to risk their position by becoming involved than women who have little education. This reflects the harsh government attitude toward political groups. Just a few days prior to this interview an office of the Women's Institute was broken into by the army, who stole everything of value and then trashed the office.
In January 1987 sixty-four communities organized. Through the efforts of the Jesuits at the Catholic University, eight hundred delegates got together in an assembly which created UNADES, the Union Nacional de Damnificados de El Salvador, colloquially, "Union of the Damned of El Salvador." Through the Catholic University a Political Action Committee was formed. Although the recipient of international funding, it is organized and run by the women of El Salvador, though it does not have a solely female membership.
UNADES receives new leadership by going to communities and asking for those who are willing to help and work. The perilousness of responding to this request is demonstrated by the fact that three of the nine initial directors are dead. Two other directors are in the San Miguel Political Prison. Much of the information used in this section was given to the author by Tita Lopez Perez, who was at the time of the interviews the director of UNADES. Two months later she disappeared. Although it is thought she was assassinated by the Death Squad, her body has not been found and no group has claimed responsibility. On April 23, 1989, a little more than a month after the author's visit, the UNADES office in San Salvador was surrounded by the military and shortly thereafter one of their members, Claudia Lopez, was kidnapped.
One of the most persistent of the many complaints received by UNADES is eviction. Many owners of land that had been used by communities but had been devastated by the 1986 earthquake decided to stake their claim and not allow open settlement. Some of the largest communities were hit by rents that escalated from 9 colones for a lot with a shelter to 50 colones a month for just the land. Also, many of the utilities that had been acquired had to be reacquired. As most communities could not afford the hook-up fee for power and water, it meant taking the connection illegally.
Co-Madres is a committee of mothers who have lost a husband, son, or daughter in the war. The offices of Co-Madres had been bombed twice the month the author was there, and was heavily sandbagged. The welcoming group assured the delegation that the military would not bomb while any U.S. citizens were present.
Co-Madres is active in street demonstrations (an illegal activity), and also provides a refugee pipeline. Its members take care of the wounded and work in the communities. The location the author visited was bought with funds provided by a Solidarity organization in Norway.
Sophia is a typical Co-Madres member. She has been with Co-Madres since 1979, when her son was captured by the National Police, who denied having him. She went to Monsignor (later Archbishop) Romero for help. During mass and in homily Father Romero mentioned by name all those captured and denounced the military for not formally arresting and charging these invisible prisoners. After fifty-two days, the police acknowledged they had Sophia's son. He was released. A few days later the Death Squad assassinated him.
Amelia's 17-year-old daughter was killed on September 29, 1980. She was kidnapped and taken to Balboa Park in Los Plana del Benderos, where she was pulled across a football field and thrown from a precipice. Amelia was told by a police officer from Santa Rectare that her daughter was killed because she would not say what group she belonged to.
Amelia searched garbage dumps and garbage cans for her daughter's body, knowing that was where bodies were left. When she looked in the morgue, there were thirty-six bodies, four of whom were female. Her daughter was not one of them. On October 16, Amelia found her daughter in a shallow rock covered grave with only some leaves over her face. She had no upper teeth and her nose had been broken. She had a stab wound in her throat from a machete and there were pieces of wood stuck in her ribs. Acid had been poured on her skin.
Also on October 16 Amelia's nephew, Hector, was killed. Nearly every
bone in his body was broken and he had twelve gunshot wounds. He had been tied with his
own belt, hands to feet, and his socks were stuffed in his mouth with masking tape to hold
The state is not backed by either the intelligentsia or the churches in El Salvador. Both have publicly sided with the middle class and poor against the repression of the military and right-wing elite. The University was occupied for two years by the military. Since it reopened several professors have been assassinated. The Catholic Church has undergone a transformation most observers would not have accepted just a decade ago. A significant portion of its priests actively work with avowed marxists. The collapse of the Catholic Church began just before Bishop Romero's assassination. Catholics began to be identified as anti-government and discriminated against. One of the most notable results of this is the emergence of many Protestant churches. The middle and upper classes fled the notoriety of Catholicism for the safe havens of churches which did not openly confront the government.
El Salvador University
The University entrance is controlled by the military, who searched the Delegation entering and leaving. The damage from the intervention and the 1986 earthquake is evident. The Administration building is unusable and now the offices operate out of a small classroom structure. The library keeps all the books on ground floors to keep weight off of the upper floors. The landscaping is non-existent.
A wide range of subjects is taught. The University was established February 16, 1841, and its main doctoral program is medicine. Several professors were asked what hope El Salvador has with little arable land and no mineral wealth. Their answer consistently was the large ocean potential. The University has two small oceanography teams active on the coast.
Dr. Roberto Canane; was the Delegation's host at the University. He is responsible for the student paper and most outside communications. His opening statement was, "It is important to meet delegations from the U.S. so you can see the problems here that you are causing." He went on to describe how the Salvadoran government openly claimed all students were communists and directly aided and abetted the needs of the guerrillas.
Dr. Canane; gave a short lecture during the Delegation's visit. He explained that El Salvador University has a different function than normal universities. Its history has been one of conflict between State and University in terms of the economic and political structure of El Salvador. The social facts are that the Fourteen Families control most of the land, industry, and commerce. The vast majority live without water, electricity, good nutrition, or health services.
In San Salvador, sixty percent of the population lives in a very adverse situation. Besides the economic realities, there is a bad political structure. "Even good people are fearful of the trucks with guns." For fifty years the government told the people that the military is might and is right, so this is El Salvador's political experience. Publishing or speaking out incurs risk of jail or death.
The University is trying to provide solutions, and hopes to force change by describing scientifically a reality that conflicts with the state's version. An example of this given by Dr. Canane; was a law school student who, starting with a different reality than the state's, was hired by farmers to go to court. These farmers had had their countryside land confiscated by big landlords. The lawyer knew this to be against the law and so took the case. But the state wanted that area free of small farms so as to better control the guerrilla's access to food. The judge asked the lawyer, "Are you a communist, asking for compensation for this farmer?" (This was in 1980.) Soon the farmers could not even find lawyers to represent their grievances.
Dr. Canane; stated that the Death Squad is a Salvadoran institution. The reality of this is that every night, to all Salvadorans, a knock on the door means fear. It happens every day. It also means that any type of organized activity is very difficult.
For example, a national campaign against intestinal worms would be well received. But the state pretends not to accept the fact that the majority of its children has a worm problem. For anyone to organize and address this need would risk being branded a communist. This creates the fear of the Death Squad and so the University cannot even start a simple de-worming program.
In 1989, El Salvador University had 35,000 students, 3,000 teachers, and 2,000 staff, and was one of the most organized groups in El Salvador. It is a popular University because it studies and works to help the poor people in this economy. The entire curricula and faculty are oriented by choice to favor the poor. It is trying to create professionals for a new society.
After many years of struggle the Salvadoran Constitution was rewritten to force the state to fund without directly controlling the University. There are no police allowed on campus, although all entrance/exits are manned as military checkpoints. The University can make agreements and help the national trade unions. It can give free legal counseling to those jailed and without representation. Dr. Canane; sees the University as an island of democracy in a state of dictators.
It should be noted that although Dr. Canane; represented the University as a free democracy, in 1988 six professors were killed. The University is forced to operate at 1979 funding levels. (In 1979, the student population was 20,000.) In 1980 the military intervened directly, burning books and controlling the curriculum. This intervention lasted until 1984.
Roman Catholic Church
With priests actively helping the guerrillas, and the Archbishop frequently denouncing the government, the Catholic Church has made a stand to help the poor. UNADES received its start because of the Catholic University. Most researchers accept the Catholic University numbers of dead by guerrilla, military, or Death Squad as the best available. The list of martyrs includes the four nuns and six Jesuit priests that have been assassinated by the military. One of the Jesuits assassinated was Segundo Montes, a noted sociologist. His accounts of the repression and the informal money flow will be missed.
Probably because El Salvador is still predominately Catholic, birth control and abortion are very difficult. It almost seems the solution to overthrowing the government will be over-population. Yet even the Catholics have no solution for the redistribution of resources which would make a better life for all. It remains to be seen what realistic plan can be accepted by the Catholic Church to address a population that will double in twenty-five years.
Father Rogelio Ponseele (the priest who gave the funeral for the thirty slaughtered during the 1979 demonstration in San Salvador--see Chapter II) was born in Belgium in 1939. He was ordained in 1965 and, after hearing a plea for help from the Bishop of El Salvador in 1970, he gave up his life of teaching children in Belgium and left for a place he had never heard of. He did not even speak Spanish. Now he works with the guerrillas on the front line. As part of his vows he continues to refuse to carry arms. He feels the marxist leaders and especially their followers are the children of God and deserve the sacraments.
The Archbishop has branded priests such as Father Rogelio as rogue priests. They are not obeying his directives, which include refusing any aid to the guerrillas. However, despite Father Rogelio's open violation of the edicts, he continues to be supported by the Church and has been able to return to Belgium to visit his family. He was interviewed by Maria Lopez Vigil who traveled with him in the Morazan area controlled by the FMLN.
When asked if he believed the military and right-wing Death Squad were the work of the devil Father Rogelio answered,
Do I believe in the devil? No, what I believe in is evil. The devil is a personification of evil. And I am more and more convinced that evil exists. A person like Ronald Reagan is evil, don't you think? (Vigil, 1989, p. 11).
He was particularly upset with Reagan's continuing claim of civil
rights improvement in El Salvador to satisfy the funding requirements of Congress. Over
fifty percent of the government's annual budget comes from the United States. Everyone
knows "that it's because of the U.S. that we haven't already won the war and it's
because of the gringos that the war has become tougher and cruel" (Vigil, 1989, p.
98). "Cruel" is a reference to the counter-insurgency tactics now being employed
that were the direct result of training received by the armed forces in the United States.
Father Rogelio was there in the 1970s when both sides fought a more conventional war in
battalion strength. He has seen the worst parts of the direct intervention which
Krauthammer and the Type I national security state are calling for (see Chapter I).
Traditionally, trade unions are the place for labor to actively organize workers to bargain with their employers. El Salvador is no exception. Most of the unions work to better the conditions of their membership. It is very dangerous for unions in El Salvador to form linkages with non-union organizations. The biggest strength the unions have is their international affiliations. For instance, SOICSCES, a construction workers union, is striking an Italian building project. After two months, they have not make any progress. Their international affiliate in Italy has promised to strike against the employer in Italy to help (El Rescate, May, 1991).
This union represents trade unions and has over 350,000 members in eighty-five separate unions. They are operating out of a shelter that looks like a quonset hut, located in the south central part of the city. The shelter was sandbagged and guarded. These precautions proved inadequate when a car bomb exploded in June 1989, destroying the building and killing over thirty people. Several families were living in the downstairs open area and the offices were upstairs.
UNTS sends some of its members to the United States for training. Unfortunately, its experience has been that even the most committed people, once in the U.S., do not return.
The conditions under which this union operates are made clear by the fact one of their most important officers is the Secretary of Conflict, Guillermo Rojaus. Guillermo was captured and held for four days during the 1985 strike for salary increases. The General Secretary of the union made his safe return one of the conditions of settlement.
UNTS's stated function is to advise its member unions and do large scale political lobbying. A major project is the disability compensation system. El Salvador theoretically has a system whereby if a worker has social security coverage, his medical, hospital and disability compensation are similar those in the United States. The employee donates 1.5 percent of his total salary, the employer donates 2.5 percent, and the government adds 4 percent. In reality, however, often the employers will withhold the employee's portion then not pay it into the system, much less pay their own portion. Currently the government is in arrears $160 million for its own portion of the coverage. Attempts to redress this problem through the court system having failed, recently the SOICSCES construction worker's union struck to demand that the owner pay the dues owed. This strike was successful.
UNTS does not support either major political party, many of its members feeling neither ARENA (right) nor the FMLN (left) can significantly help El Salvador. Guillermo Rojaus feels there is no "Labor Party" because there is no political arena for free elections. However, UNTS would support a democratic convergence of the FDR and FMLN.
In negotiations, Guillermo says the government is by far the worst entity with which to deal. It never concedes. The next worst are businesses owned by Salvadorans who either do not live in El Salvador or are rarely seen. A little better is a small business where the Salvadoran owner is still working. The very best to negotiate with, in his view, is an international company.
On March 17, 1989, Fenastras, a union that represents thirty thousand workers, with representatives in Washington, D.C., was surrounded by the military. Just before the military closed off the offices, the delegation had an opportunity to interview the leaders. The "paro" (transportation stoppage) was in its second day as the labor movement attempted a general strike to protest the elections. The union's previous attempt at a general strike was successful because of the large number of owners of small and medium businesses unhappy with President Romero in 1979.
The labor movement has learned the uselessness of picketing and has taken to occupying the factory itself to force a shutdown. The large businesses fear destruction of their capital in a long strike, so lock out workers to prevent occupation of the plant.
The current "paro" or general strike effort was not successful in the large cities. One of the big problems the new labor movement had was the number of campesinos (people from the countryside) the war had urbanized. Together with the huge numbers of people still displaced by the 1986 earthquake, these people helped create a forty percent unemployment rate that made for a virtually hopeless labor position.
Labor's main hope is the International Solidarity movement. Fenastras is developing contacts with sister unions and hopes to get international attention on the plight of El Salvador's working class.
Roberto Recino, General Secretary of Fenastras, states that one of the organizations to answer this call was an unwanted international union presence seductively named the American Institute for Free Labor Development. In a tactic perfected in the United States, this institute came in with paid organizers and educators, to bust union shops. Focusing only on the industries that had achieved a semblance of union rights and pay, this Institute developed co-unions in an attempt to divide the shop into areas of specialization and management levels. Fenastras was able to secure documentation showing the CIA paid ninety percent of the Institute's bills and the AFL-CIO the rest. In June of 1989, there was a symposium of all unions with international affiliation to meet and discuss changing the perspective of the American Institute. This had little effect.
Another problem with the strike capability is the huge amount of United States capital investment. When a business was struck the United States was able to provide special bail-out provisions to the owners. This removed the necessity to bargain. In El Salvador, most international banks have no desire to step in and foreclose. Instead they have developed a "help the owner at almost any cost" attitude.
Recino believes that, historically, elections have not served to improve the political injustices. Because of this, and a general feeling neither ARENA nor the Christian Democrats offered anything more than a continuance of the low-intensity war, most unions chose not to support the general elections of March 20, 1989.
We as a federation aren't against elections but at this time they are
not the solution. The governments of the U.S. and El Salvador are attempting to use the
people to vote knowing no choice. So by not participating due to massive repression these
are not free elections (Recino, 1989).
After experiencing the reform efforts of the Christian Democrats, why did ARENA get the majority of the popular vote in the 1989 elections? The information presented below was gathered during the election itself.
All the registered parties (parties that turned in a membership list with enough names at least three months prior to the election day) are allowed election supervisors called vigilantes at the actual election. Due to the historical tradition of ballot stuffing this was a role taken very seriously. The ballots would be folded, the voter's ID checked against a computer list of eligible voters, and the little finger inked and rolled onto a page within each voter's own ID book. Then the ballot would be dropped into a clear plastic bag where everyone could see the other folded ballots. The vigilantes wear bibs with their party affiliation in large letters and have a picture ID clipped to the front.
Juan was an ARENA vigilante on Roosevelt Boulevard in San Salvador helping patrol the activities of sixty-eight booths. Each booth had an alphabetical listing of the registered voters entitled to vote at that particular booth. In a surprise move, the military had relocated at midnight the voting of two middle class districts to the Roosevelt section. Several Christian Democrat vigilantes said this had compromised their main supporters who now had to walk miles through three different military inspection points within San Salvador. Juan agreed the middle class areas were heavily Christian Democrat but said the military didn't consider them safe. With bombs and shooting evident all around it was apparent that little was truly safe in San Salvador this election day.
Juan is an ardent ARENA supporter. He said he really hoped they win so the country could get started. He studied marine biology at Victorville, California, and considers the Pacific Ocean El Salvador's best hope. Currently, the country has only five fishing boats and has just started shrimp farming Thailand style.
Juan is one of the very few voluntary returnees. He spent a lot of time in Guatemala and enjoys surfing. La Libertad, 35 kilometers west of the airport, is the best spot to surf and in fact was holding an international competition.
Although there are military on all side streets and many patrolling through the election area, military personnel are not allowed to vote. Some cars are allowed to drive right through the voting area, and there are all kinds of parked cars. With the popularity of the car bomb, security does not seem effective.
Election Day was also Palm Sunday. Going to church meant a trip straight south down Roosevelt to the Cathedral where Bishop Romero was assassinated, through four military inspection checkpoints. Another voting area off Roosevelt is located in a small park in a poor part of town.
The handpicked (by President Bush) international election observers came through the voting area at about 25 mph in an airconditioned Mercedes bus. They did not stop at either main voting area, but later were able to declare it a fair election. The Minister of Defense Casanova came by. He is definitely a charismatic man. Later Alfredo Cristiani came and voted.
Although the hotel and most buildings were locked up, there was a patio setting that served good coffee and rolls. The crowd at the north end of Roosevelt was upper class and many of the women were wearing designer jeans despite it being Palm Sunday. In the poor voting area, almost all the women were wearing their Sunday dress.
At 5:00 p.m. the voting booths closed and the ballots were immediately counted by the vigilantes. By 5:30 the ARENA people were starting to party. They had about sixty percent of the vote in this one section.
Rene Figueroa, formerly the housing general in 1979 and now a close adviser to Cristiani, talked of the work ahead. He talked of how important it was that Cristiani was seen to be a vote getter on his own. Having a power base of popular support gave him more latitude dealing with D'Aubuisson. There was some discussion that now the army could go all out to eradicate the guerrilla forces. There was little popular support for giving in to FMLN demands. Additionally, it seemed the ARENA people were less dependent upon the U.S.
Lydia and Keith Richason were ARENA supporters who had lived in the United States for twenty years and now wanted to retire in El Salvador. They talked of the days when the rich ran the country without much opposition. Lydia showed a couple of houses that had grand entry ways and sweeping stairways of marble. Now they were locked up. The rich live in high security areas or in Miami. Those choosing to remain in El Salvador must be careful and are unable to live as they used to in the 1960s and 70s.
Several factors influenced ARENA's success. According to some polls the Convergence Party led just a month before the election. The withdrawal of support for the election process by many groups undermined this lead. The "paro" kept a lot of voters away from the polls. And, of course, last-minute manipulations of the election process itself were involved.
In the poor communities, there seemed to be a fairly high turn-out. Walking through them one could not help but notice that most were very proud of their voting finger. All questioned had voted for ARENA. One reason often given was that Duarte was blamed for all the campesinos who were bussed in and now crowded the communities. This was a frequent complaint heard in most communities--that since the countryside was a war zone families were coming into the urban areas and, depending upon how much wealth they brought with them, settling into existing communities. With only one faucet and usually just one hole dug for an outhouse, most communities felt the pressure of overcrowding.
Another reason cited for voting for ARENA was the acceptance of ARENA's
contention that the middle class (Christian Democratic) party would steal their money,
whereas the upper class would not because they already had it. Voting and the National
ID<!-- Voting and the National ID
--> One of the reasons people voted in the 1989 election was fear of reprisal. With ARENA sure to win, "[these] elections will only serve to legitimize the Death Squad. Some will vote out of fear, as those who do not vote are listed" (Barbati, 1989).
When the military stops a citizen ID is requested. There is a page for the election stamp. When a Salvadoran does not have this stamp the authority often surmises it is because the citizen does not accept the democratic process in El Salvador. In previous elections, the government would threaten to impose a fine and a three-month prison sentence on non-voters. But through an international pressure campaign to legitimize elections, that threat has been dropped. There have been cases of government employees who were fired or not promoted for not voting.
One of the most intriguing points of the FMLN proposal to validate the election process had to do with allowing Salvadorans who are refugees the right to vote. This could represent almost 600,000 votes (compared to the fact that only 900,000 total votes were cast).
Chris Norton<!--Chris Norton-->
When the author spoke to him on March 22, 1989, Chris Norton had been the on-location El Salvador reporter for the Christian Science Monitor for five years. Chris had this to say about El Salvador:
The power structure believes that, except for the American personnel who are assisting them, all foreigners are counterproductive to stabilization. The first time American tourists could get visas was in 1986, but often the visas are rejected at the border. One delegation this election period received a five-hour visa and essentially was confined to the airport. There
has been a history of aggressive reporters being shot. Two days ago a Reuters reporter was shot by the Air Force just after they looked at his visa.
The U.S. Embassy didn't want the Voice of the Voiceless caravan to cross the border because they consider the backers to be Communist supporters. The Kennedy Center and the Ecumenical Council of Churches has been working to get the supplies in through a commercial shipment.
ARENA is playing excellent cards and saying the right things: they are going to perfect reforms of Duarte, return the coffee plantations to the private sector, establish peace without repression.
ARENA and the army both need U.S. aid so both will use the current techniques of military repression rather than vigilante groups. Both sectors of the army see the ARENA vote as a vote for open war. The Christian Democrats Attorney General had planned on prosecuting the Las Hojas massacre where the large landowners had a friendly army colonel get rid of squatters. But now he is out and ARENA's attorney general will not prosecute the rich, though he may have to do something about the four reporters killed covering this election. So now all the areas of power are owned and/or controlled by ARENA. People opposing ARENA will be branded communist.
The Death Squad organizers are also the ARENA elite, but the killings are now being done by special groups within the military. So there is no reason for ARENA to directly intervene as Death Squad organizers. D'Aubuisson felt he had to develop the Death Squad in 1979 because of a split in the army following a young officers' coup. It was a critical time when the left was on the verge of taking power and the army had split with the Christian Democrats trying to attach to the United States. So D'Aubuisson, who had the top files of military intelligence, went to the right rich and formed a special group--the Death Squad.
The U.S. Embassy feels that forty to fifty murders a month will be acceptable to Congress. Right now they are averaging twenty-seven per month. Chris Norton expects that to increase to the maximum level with ARENA in power.
There will be a stalemate here for another two years, at which time the crisis point should be reached. If guerrillas step up their activities, and they will, there will be increased killings by the military in retaliation. This will get U.S. Congressional attention and with increased human rights abuse the military aid may be cut. On the other hand, the Christian Democrats and Duarte had documented human rights violations, so now what is the alternative--right or guerrilla/marxist. So a difficult situation exists as Congress will support almost anything to keep from giving in to the communists.
The El Salvador Military Academy class of 1966, called the Tandona, has occupied almost every high rank in the armed forces. The military commandant was Casanova. Both parties need Casanova to control the military and so he has been asked to be defense minister again and again. Now Estelle of the Air Force is making a strong push for power. The Air Force saved the Army in the insurrection of 1983, so they are a strong power.
The military analysis of this election sees the Christian Democrats as bankrupt, corrupt, and without popular support. But the Christian Democrats under Duarte have been great for getting money out of Washington. When Duarte first went to Washington, D.C., for aid, Ted Kennedy was his strongest detractor. Duarte, on meeting Kennedy, gave him a huge bear hug and broke out in tears telling him how much he admired his brothers. He got the aid.
The military sees ARENA as a possible jeopardy to continuing U.S. aid. But the ideology is something to which they can relate. ARENA also seems more likely to present a pragmatic solution to the nation's low- intensity war. The army has always resented being constrained by U.S. Congressional attitudes on human rights, and from crossing national borders in attempts to knock out guerrilla bases. There is a large mountainous area between El Salvador and Honduras that is considered part of neither nation. Because of this and the nature of guerrilla warfare, the army cannot defeat the guerrillas.
The export of coffee, sugar, and cotton remain the main source of income to the right. These agricultural crops are very susceptible to guerrilla intervention. Recently the Entre Reos cotton co-op has been targeted by the guerrillas. They have been hit often and are not going to have a crop this year. Because of this the guerrillas have been successful in representing peasants in labor negotiations with the landowners. This has given the guerrillas a great deal of popular support in the countryside.
The guerrillas are getting a little better at co-ordinating their activities. They do have at least seven thousand armed troops. But in the past they have made some serious mistakes with the people. They have intimidated villages just as the military has. While it is true that the government has murdered seventy thousand people, it is also true that the guerrillas have murdered ten thousand. They have mined trails they anticipate government troops will follow and then been unable to or just forgot to deactivate their mines after the action. Many, many people are without limbs because of guerrilla mines. Also the guerrilla car bombs use a primary charge to launch a secondary bomb to the target. Unfortunately, the primary charge frequently kills or maims any bystanders unaware of the guerrilla plan.
Guerrilla recruitment is pretty straightforward. They go into a small community and tell the people if they want to stay they must give one male teenager per family to the guerrilla army. In the city they work through unions. There is a high percentage of liberal leaders among the guerrillas.
Most Salvadorans want to be apolitical. The common sentiment is
strongly anti-communist. Many people are cynical and doubt that the FMLN can implement a
program that could help the country. In Nicaragua in 1979-80 there was hope in the country
that life would get better. But now all Central America knows how bad conditions are in
Nicaragua, so communism is not an attractive option.
The following interviews were recorded on videotape. Marta is a young woman who became active in the UNTS as a university student and was subsequently targeted by the Death Squad. She was interviewed in Los Angeles, where she now resides. Father Olivares is the pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels church in downtown Los Angeles. He frequently travels to El Salvador and was featured in Parade magazine. He was also interviewed in Los Angeles. Roberto Recino was interviewed at Fenestras headquarters in San Salvador. Dr. Luis Antillon is the President of El Salvador University. He requested his interview not be taped but gave permission to publish his comments.
Interviewer: How did your parents feel about you leaving El Salvador?
Marta: To be sincere my mother, she was very happy. But at the same
time very sad. Because she knew that I was their support in a certain way. However, she
knew that I was in danger, and she knew that it would be better for me to be far away,
than dead. And, of course, she was very sad, but she also had hope because I was far away.
Q: Are you in contact with your family in El Salvador?
A: No. Right now I have written to them, but they still have not
written me back. However, I do plan to be in contact with them because my daughter is
there, and I also have the desire to know what's going on with my family.
Q: What did you do in El Salvador?
A: Well, I used to work in an office in San Salvador, in the capital
district. It was there I had my office. I was a section manager. And besides that I
attended classes at the university, in my second year of studying psychology. One feels
obligated by the pain that surrounds you to get involved. The fact of being a student was
already a crime, one was a guerrilla. So I had problems which included losing my job.
Because sometimes I saw that I was being followed, and possibly because I walked very
quickly, or there were a lot of people, nothing ever happened to me.
Q: Does just being a student put you at risk?
A: Yes, that's the way it is. On many occasions they would say when
they stopped you that having a student card is a crime. Because one is considered a
guerrilla. The students, especially the National University students, are called
vagabonds, guerrillas, one who goes around brainwashing the children and the uneducated
people. And they say this to one, because what one tries to do is educate the most humble
people as to what is happening. And that one must open his eyes to the situation for the
sake of the future.
Q: What was your involvement with the women's issues?
A: Yes, I worked with UNTS we dedicated ourselves mostly to the mothers
of the disappeared and political prisoners. They are very humble women. The majority are
companeros. Some don't know how to read. One has to organize them and teach them to read.
The women, in their pain, want to take care of everything, sometimes in a very hysterical
way. So what one has to do is take charge of the situation and explain to them the way to
Q: What do you do for the women?
A: It's a matter of giving them support, because sometimes they go out
in the street protesting, dressed in black with their heads and faces completely covered.
And so one has to get out and organize them. And you can't cover yourself because you're
out there supporting them. If one of them tells us they want a demonstration, it is our
obligation as organized students to work with them and be there so that nothing happens to
them. Because there have been instances during the protests in which a mother or a sister
of a disappeared, is herself disappeared. So we keep an eye on them.
Q: Can you tell us more about El Salvador?
A: Well, the country is very beautiful and it's a shame that one can't
enjoy it. It is a risk to go to the beach, or a forest or a place like that alone because
you might meet up with men from the Death Squad and these people might find imaginary
things that don't exist. And so it's risky for one to be there. And so one cannot enjoy
Q: What was life like in El Salvador before the war?
A: In the past it was very nice, it was a luxury, you could walk down
the street real late at night and you didn't run any risks. But today, at seven in the
evening, everyone is inside their home. Because it is very dangerous to be on the streets.
You just don't see anyone. And you only see the military. And if you're in the streets at
that hour, you must be doing something bad. After dark, the streets belong to the
Q: Would you like to go back?
A: Yes, it's natural that I would like to return to my country, it is
my home. Where I was born. Where I wouldn't have any difficulties establishing a life
because I speak the language. Going to a foreign country is an inconvenience. For one it
is difficult because you don't understand anything. Things are so different and so you
miss your country very much and I would happily return.
Q: Can you tell us how the war has changed things in El Salvador? Is
there enough food, gasoline, basic things? What is it you lack?
A: Well the truth is, of course we lack things. If there are no jobs.
If you have a family of five people, you would think that three or four would be working,
but in most case it's only one, to sustain that family. There are no jobs, they don't give
out any jobs. If you get a job, you have to be the son of somebody well known. Things are
very expensive. Everything costs so much and the salaries are very low. So of course there
is terrible hunger.
Q: Many Americans don't understand the situation in El Salvador, they
don't know how life is. Many say that what we're doing in El Salvador is fighting
communism, they think that's good, that we're involved in this fight. We're supporting a
government that fights against communism. But can you tell us how life is, how we are
effecting the reality of these people? How the money we are sending is affecting the
people in El Salvador?
A: Well, yes it is a big reality, it's a sore subject to talk about.
The government here sends this money, this help, but what they are doing is destroying the
people. They believe they're doing the opposite but no. Because they buy arms, bombs. And
what does it serve to bomb a whole village where there are elderly and children? Instead
of using this money for food, they use it to kill people. Here [U.S.] is ignorant of
what's going on. I don't feel capable of explaining it better.
I would just like many people here to know, who are ignorant of the
situation, that this money doesn't serve any purpose but to kill people.
At one time people were happy because it was said that American aid was
coming. The United States government was sending help. We were all ignorant and the people
were content because food was coming for the children, for the poor. But this was false,
this was only to fool the people, to say that the [U.S.] government helps in these
matters. Yes, in reality they do help, but I repeat, it's to buy arms.
Q: Since 1980, this country spent $3 billion. Have you as a citizen
seen anything good where they spent the money on the people?
A: Of course not, nothing. We know because our culture does not permit
us to ignore that this comes in, that these dollars enter our country as aid. But not
because we are told that this arrives, but because they use the money, well, it's to buy
the nice houses for the military, for the rich. To buy them their nice cars so that they
can open up good businesses. And one doesn't ignore this because at such levels, it would
be difficult to hide. But not because the people receive anything, it's minimal if
Q: Marta, can you tell us why you left?
A: The reason I left my country is because I had been hit, I had been
beaten, I suffered many physical consequences against my life that gave me no other choice
but to leave. I left my daughter, it was very difficult to leave. But again it's just
through God's grace I was able to leave at all. I had trouble with immigration, with
robbers, with the people on the roadside. I suffered political persecution just to get out
of the situation I was in.
Q: How did they know you were the one they wanted?
A: There are people that are like detectives that are following and
watching activities and are loosely following people that they have targeted. My
companeras would be often times taken to houses that might not appear like a house and
tortured by people trying to get information. Then they would say some subversives had
done it and they would deny any government involvement.
Q: So you knew you were on a list being watched?
A: The initial time that they tried to capture me they went to my
sister's, but one day I was waiting at the bus stop and four men approached me. As it was
very crowded I was able to put up a fight and avoid the capture. But a few days later I
was at my mother's with my daughter, and men came in the house and captured me. I was
taken to a vehicle which some of my companeras were already in. They covered my eyes and
they took us to a house and started interrogating us. Even as they were mistreating us
they were saying they would not take our lives. But they killed three of my companeras
right there and would have killed me also. During the time I was there I was tortured and
horribly mistreated and everything that was possible to do to a woman they did.
Q: Don't people try and help a woman being captured?
A: People basically when they see a kidnapping taking place often times
will not do anything because they are afraid that it will happen to them.
Q: Would you go into more detail about your capture?
A: It was late at night when these men entered the house. They broke in through a window and threw my mother onto the floor and grabbed my little brother and then me. My mom plead with the men. I begged them to leave my mother and brother behind because I felt responsible. They grabbed my brother and beat him and then raped him and then they grabbed me and took me out and said they would not mistreat me.
We were threatened for three days and then after the other three women
were killed. I was fortunate to have as a member of the Death Squad a friend of mine I
used to have coffee with at the University. He helped me to escape.
Q: How did you get involved with protesting?
A: In the early 1980s I started to see the injustice of the
assassinations and the pain of the people. I saw the election coming up between Duarte and
D'Aubuisson and I thought Duarte needed to win to give the people a chance. And so I
worked as hard as I could through the young Christian Democratic Party and this man I met
that was protecting the area was talking to me and said he didn't necessarily believe what
was going on. This was in 1982 and it was just by chance that this same man was there as
one of the rapists and through the grace of God helped me leave the house and I fled.
Q: How about some more information on the process of leaving the
A: I left because I knew there was no hope to be forgotten. So I told
my mother and daughter and that Friday I left. I did not realize I was pregnant until I
was in Mexico. I wanted to stay and help the struggle but knew I would be jeopardizing my
mother and daughter. At the point where I recognized this man I realized I had been
working with the young democratic group. At the time I thought that he was basically just
a security guard and I treated him well and that's how we started our friendship. I was
able to say to him that I hoped he would be able to get out of the army and six years
later he was part of the torturing. Basically, he was able to ask me how I got involved
and I told him I was not any more involved than before. He told me he would have to be
harder on me than the others and he beat me badly as a means of decreasing the suspicions.
The day of the assassinations the two soldiers hung one woman and shot
the others and then it was my turn. My friend told the other person to leave for a moment
because he wanted to enjoy me one more time. He opened the window and told me to run. I
ran to the roadside and a truck stopped. Because of my appearance and wounds he didn't
want to give me a ride. I told him a drug dealer had done it to me and so he took me
downtown. I met my friends and they wanted to take me to the hospital but I knew there was
no time. So I went to my mom's house and said my goodbyes.
Q: Could you tell us a little more about the trip through Mexico?
A: It was a problem to get this far. I knew that I did not know the
route and would need to use a coyote, but I did not have enough money. But my cousin in
L.A. said he would help.
Q: Was the coyote for the southern Mexico border or the U.S. or both?
A: I did have a passport, it is very easy to get a passport for
different Central American countries. But at Pachutla the Mexicans stopped all the
travelers. They knew there was a great deal of travel north and once past Mexico City
there is very little inspection of travelers. I was traveling with a mixed group of
Central Americans who I did not know or particularly trust. We waited for several days
without sleeping until the inspectors let their guard down and then we made our way past
them. From there it was easy to get a bus ride to Tijuana. That's where I hired a coyote
and he took me through to San Diego where my cousin came down and gave me a ride to L.A.
[The following interview was after Marta had delivered her baby, who
was adopted by a naturalized Salvadoran couple living in Los Angeles.]
Q: Would you tell us about the letter you wrote to your baby?
A: I felt it necessary that she know when she gets older, that she
wasn't with me, not because I didn't want her, but...well I tell her in the letter how she
was conceived and that I don't have anything against her. She is my daughter. And my
country is a problem, one can't live there. And the parents that have her now, can give
her what I cannot give her. I plan to return to El Salvador soon. I'm thinking of
returning soon to my country and I can't subject her to the sure suffering of living
there. So for this reason I wrote her the letter telling her that if conditions were
different, I would make the sacrifice to be with her. But the truth is, in spite of
everything, I want the best for her.
Q: What do you see in the future for you? And tell us a little about
what happened to your brother?
A: I see it as being a little difficult as much staying here as returning to El Salvador. Life here is difficult. For one, it's strange not knowing the language, besides that if you do succeed in learning the language, you're still in a foreign country that's not yours. And by not being legal, everything is difficult.
Besides that, I think that I should return to El Salvador because I
have much to do. Also I have my family. We have to do what those who have already left
this world couldn't do.
Like my brother who was brutally murdered. Because he wanted justice.
However, there is no justice, and justice isn't available for those killed there. And
because we don't have rights they killed him. He was very young. At one time he wanted, I
believe, to be able to do something to change it. But the truth is, this has meant trouble
for our family. And instead of relieving the situation from within, we now are worse off.
But we also have desires to, I don't know, to fight the forces that dominate. Although I
doubt that we can do it, because the situation is going to get worse.
Q: What kind of work did your brother do?
A: He worked in a place where they process basic grains and sugar.
Q: And his political work?
A: He was the only one doing [political work] there when he was killed.
The elections are coming up. He worked with the Christian Democratic Party. Right now they
are campaigning. That is what he was doing when they captured him. They took him away, and
he was found four days later dead.
Q: How was he killed?
A: They broke his feet, they broke his hands, they pulled out his
fingernails, they tortured him first and then shot him. However, I want to add the Death
Squads claim responsibility for the murders, there were seven that they killed, because
the Death Squads accused them of being terrorists and what they were doing was working for
Q: When will you go back - is it a question of money or politics?
A: I think that the political situation will not change. But if it
changes, it will be to our advantage, it will make the war situation worse. Our country's
hope was that a different President would be elected, in the United States. We know ahead
of time, that this one who is a murderer there is going to win. So we expect that things
are going to get worse instead of better.
So I don't have to wait for the country to change. So what I want to do is really recuperate physically. I want to get rid of my fear and earn some money. If this President here has money to send for war, then it's only fair that those of us who have come here will earn money that will go for food and other things there in El Salvador. So this is what I hope to do within a year, after working, return. So I hope to return to El Salvador in a year after working here. I am not waiting for things to change there.
FATHER LUIS OLIVARES
Interviewer: What is your experience with Central American refugees,
and why do they come to the U.S.?
Fr. Olivares: Our Lady Queen of Angels is part of six hundred churches,
synagogues, and universities in the Sanctuary Movement. We help people who flee due to
persecution. We get a large number of people seeking refuge. Testimony files on them
attempt to verify their stories. From my own personal experience, I know that we are
almost at the 1980 levels of persecution, repression, and violence in Central America,
especially in El Salvador.
Q: It's a commonly held belief that most people who come from Central
America come for economic reasons--has that been your experience?
A: There is no question that the situation Central America finds itself
in would alone be a reason to leave. I'm convinced the situation in El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Nicaragua are devastated economically and to me that's a sufficient reason.
However, the primary reason the people are coming from Central America in the numbers they
are coming in is primarily for reasons of persecution. The violence in their home country
is at the level where they simply cannot risk their lives any longer. So I would say
there's an economic factor, of course in terms of the survival situation, but even with
those devastated economic conditions there is an overwhelming reason of political
persecution or simply just belonging to a union or being part of a progressive educational
mainstream in those countries or being associated with the church as activists or what we
call ministers of the word. When priests can get there, they are the leaders in the
community, they are targeted as trouble makers and so they are vulnerable, many, many,
many of them are forced to leave the country.
Q: If a person was a victim of police/military action most people would
think they had something to do with guerrilla war and they deserved what they got.
A: There needs to be no connection at all with actual combatant
guerrilla identification. The mere fact that you live in a conflictive society already
targets you. Because if you are able to live in that village and stay alive, the military
concludes you must be collaborating with the guerrillas. And we have testimony, because
one of the areas in which we have personal and immediate contact is in a little town
called Guarjila in a province of Chalatanango, which is a highly conflictive area.
This little village is right at the base of the mountain. A mountain
where we know there is heavy guerrilla concentration. Now that little town Guarjila is a
sister parish to us here. So we have constant communication with them. We are there often.
As a matter of fact one of our associates, our priest, is over there right now visiting in
the community and we know their level of involvement. We know definitely that they have
begged the guerrillas not to mix into the community so easily because it targets them. And
yes, if they need, in terms of some one is wounded, is dying, as a human person you reach
out to that person. That already makes you a collaborator. But as a matter of fact, it's
just a question of a humanitarian response to a given situation. It does not mean that
they are collaborating.
If someone comes to you at gunpoint and says whatever you have in your
kitchen we need right now, and, in effect, steals what you have for your own subsistence,
and that happens to be a guerrilla person, you are then supposed to be helping the
guerrillas--when you are not going to refuse. And besides that the military comes in just
as easily. And in turn, if the guerrilla sees the military in the village, they're going
to suspect that you're collaborating with the government. And so then you become a target
of the guerrillas. So you're caught here literally between the devil and the deep blue
There's no question that the precariousness of their situation is
evident because we know those people. We've talked to them. We have constant communication
with them. We have helped rebuild their town, We have bought a cow for them so that they
can have milk. We have bought chickens for them so they can start producing their own
food. We have bought seed for them, so they can plant their lands, which is all they
There is no question that in that kind of a conflictive situation that
you become unwittingly identified by either side. And therefore, are the object of
persecution. Some of the men in our village, I call it our village because it is a sister
village to us, have been captured and disappeared. Nobody knows where they are. some of
them have been captured, taken outside of the town, and the next morning they are found
outside in a ditch, decapitated or with clear evidence of torture.
American people don't know that, and the reason they don't know that is
because they have been told that El Salvador had elections, and that they are now
preparing for their elections in March and because there are elections therefore that
means that there is democracy operative in that country. There is no semblance of
democracy operative in El Salvador at the present time because of the highly volatile
situation. Even the political scene has created a highly volatile situation. And I think
these next three months are going to be extremely difficult for the people of El Salvador.
Q: It seems interesting, on the one hand we have an immigration law
which prevents aliens from Central America from getting work here, in effect, forcing them
to return to their home countries. Yet, in their home countries their lives are not safe.
A: Returning to El Salvador is clearly not an option for people who
have come to the U.S., even if they have come for purely economic reason, because they are
already targeted. The fact that they left their country makes them suspect that they left
because they were afraid that they would be caught collaborating with the opposition. That
makes them suspect already.
Now there are reports from investigative groups of the U.S. who have
followed people who have returned, and apparently nothing happens to them. I think it's
easy to make a case if you follow a particular person though its obvious. If it's known
that this person is going to be followed through as to whether there's going to be
anything unusual that's going to happen to that person, nothings going to happen to that
person. That provides a terrific amount of protection. But we don't do that follow up with
everybody that goes back. And we have cases of people who have gone back who have
disappeared or been killed. So it's not an option.
Now, not only the immigration law, but I think as indicated by a recent
survey in the LA Times, the refugee is not welcome in this country, at the present time.
There is an anti-immigrant feeling, or mood or attitude in this country at the present
time. I think that particular scenario of a hostile atmosphere makes for a situation that
if the Salvadoran could go back, they would. Because it's impossible to get a job, new
immigration law makes it illegal to hire an undocumented person with very heavy sanctions.
So it's almost impossible to get a job. The only jobs these people can get is by standing
on a corner, begging for someone to give them a days work, with the possibility of getting
$20, $30, maybe $40 for that day's work. That's the reality in which these people exist.
But almost all the people we talked to, and I don't know myself,
whether they, when the opportunity came, I'm not convinced they would go back. Given the
economic devastation of the nations from which they come from, and the carryover that
always happens in those kinds of political divisive situations. I'm not so sure I would
want to go back. But, circumstances being what they are, hostile situations that they find
themselves in, their inability to get jobs, the difficulty that they have in surviving
here, the majority of the Salvadoran people I've talked to say, if they could, they would
Q: Question of having neutral people in the country, why can't we have
a neutral area?
A: The situation is so polarized, politically, and we have set the
scenario for that polarization. The United States, in its foreign policy towards Central
America, has very clearly established a scenario where it's capitalism, U.S. versus
communism, versus the Russians, versus Cuba versus Nicaragua. It's that polarized. And
it's affecting the Church. Where we have in effect a divided Catholic Church. Those who
have chosen to identify with the poor, who have made a clear option to identify with the
people who are suffering, have a tendency to be identified as Communists. Even by their
own church people. And you know, those who are, in a sense, attempting to justify their
own position of comfort many times, I hate to make those kinds of judgments, but that's
the way I see it, they are attempting to justify their own position of comfort and
security. Say look, our fight is against communism and we know that the Church has a
difficult time operating under a communist situation and we're not going to let that
happen. And as I say, it's a scenario that we have built, an East-West struggle, and
there's no middle ground here. You're either one side or the other. You cannot be neutral
in Central America at the present time.
People are so immersed in the struggle, first of all because it's such
a small population in a country like San Salvador, I mean El Salvador, you know there's
only five million people. It's extremely difficult to have a space in between which you
can operate, and make your choice. That's a very real element of that society at the
present time. Highly polarized and highly divided situation.
Q: Since 1979 or 80, the U.S. government has spent about $3 billion in
that country. Would you say that that has gone for the common good, for the good of the
common man? Or has the common man benefitted in any way from that $3 billion?
A: I'll attempt to give first of all an objective...I have very strong
personal views about the futility of attempting to solve everything by the force of power.
Through war or through infusion of huge amounts of money. We tend to think that way in
this country we can solve anything. America can solve anything because it's strong
militarily and because it's rich. And we didn't learn from our experience in Vietnam
obviously, that the huge loss of life, and the huge amounts of money and tremendous amount
of destruction did not solve that problem. And we, in effect, retreated in defeat. We're
doing the same thing in Central America because we still believe that...our answer to that
question is this will not be another Vietnam, because we're not going into war in Central
America, we're going in to win, okay--that's our mentality right now. So we have made an
option for a military solution...as a country, unfortunately. And that's the reason why I,
in the position that I have taken, do not accept that premise. O.K. that's a personal
Now, theoretically, I suppose someone could make the case that if we
want to stop communism we've got to draw the line. And that's the rationale at the present
time. O.K. we've lost Nicaragua, but that's as far as you're going to go, and don't go any
further. We'll give you Nicaragua, you can't go beyond this. And we're making our stand in
El Salvador. The American people will go head over heels for that type of thinking. They
like that. Obviously, that's not the problem, it's a good premise, based on a wrong
reality. A wrong vision of reality.
Q: In El Salvador, what form of government is there? Who's running the
A: That's the point, I think you've hit upon the central point of what
makes democracy. Who runs things is the question. There's no question that the people who
finance the war, the people who finance the military, are the ones who call the shots. It
is clear from our experience that the Christian Democratic Party whose primary role in
this conflict situation in El Salvador was to control the military because of the extreme
levels of abuses...abuses of human rights you know, that were happening, it is quite clear
that the FDR party in El Salvador made some difference. That the level of human rights
violations did go down for a period of time.
But the point is this, in El Salvador at the present time, whoever funds the military are the ones who are in control of the situation. Previously it was the oligarchy's--sixteen, seventeen families that owned the vast majority of the land, in El Salvador controlled things. Because they funded the military, And they told the government, whoever was in power took their shots from the oligarchies. What's happened in effect is the United States has replaced the oligarchies. It is quite obvious. I have been in El Salvador many times, and I know the relationship that exists between the American embassy and the government that is in power at a given time, and it is quite obvious, that the U.S. is
calling the shots is El Salvador at the present time. But, effectively
who runs things, well, it's the military.
Q: If the people were to win their struggle and get a redistribution of
the land and wealth, could a nation of five million people support itself given the
limited material and agrarian wealth of El Salvador?
A: No. The country is very mountainous and one of the most densely populated in the world.
Recino: On February 8, 1986, the Democratic Popular Union, UPD, was
established as a political party separate from the Democratic Association that supported
Duarte in 1984. Duarte had agreed to a social package, but once he won he turned his back.
So this became the motivation for UPD, to form a wide organization to work for rights.
This was a need that arose from the worsening of repression, especially against human
rights and unions, and the sell out of our sovereign nation to the U.S.
Our main tactic is massive demonstrations and public forums. In
November 1986, a Salvadoran and U.S. conference for peace was held. Two hundred seventy
U.S. citizens participated. We also held a Latin American conference for peace and no
major power intervention. In 1987 we had a general strike. We keep asking for dialogue,
but in ten meetings with the government nothing has been gained.
Reprisals include death threats to our leaders. Carlos Hernandez has
been captured. Domingo Morales and Escondir Julio were killed by the Air Force. On April
30, 1988, and again on February 15, 1989 [same day as Fenastras], our offices here were
bombed. Forty minutes ago four young members were seen captured, blindfolded and tied.
El Salvador is a country where seventy percent of our children are
malnourished, forty percent unemployed, seventy percent illiterate, and 900,000 are
homeless. We cannot accept that a few should live opulently off the sweat of the many
backs. We cannot allow companeros efforts that have paid the ultimate sacrifice [to] go in
vain. Also we know our struggle is just. And this is what makes us keep pushing.
Workers that are in companies that have unions are receiving benefits
that are visible and therefore workers want unions despite the repression. In the general
strike we achieved significant gains, but shortly after repression came again.
So we, in 1984, went more clandestine. One of the tactics used in
strikes, which is often different than in the U.S., is we have to stay on strike in the
workplace and control it. At that moment the owner is no longer the owner. This tactic
gives results and so we use it. Before we would stay outside, but we were easy victims of
Approximately eighty percent of capital is foreign. Right now the
majority of businesses work with loans as their own capital is safe in Miami or
Switzerland. In the last few years, there have been a lot of factories closing. The owners
don't care. They declare bankruptcy and the bank takes over the machinery but can't touch
the owner's money. This is becoming a typical case.
A factory in Santa Merced closed. Two hundred workers, all female, were
laid off in the dress shop just before bonus time. The company declared bankruptcy but the
women are guarding the machinery as they feel the owners will reopen with new people. This
plant makes levis and exports to the U.S. Some of the women have worked there twenty
The social security workers went on strike in 1987 for three months.
One of their biggest grievances was the need to repair the hospital to safe conditions
after the 1986 earthquake. The authorities would not fix it and so the strike. Marches and
demonstrations in streets increased the pressure and we went twice to the presidential
One day there was a confrontation with the national police who refused
to allow us entrance to an assembly room. There were many injuries but no deaths. Some
companeros aggravated the situation by shooting back. This was a very difficult time for
our union. Seventy-six companeros were dismissed. After this experience, the morale for
struggle diminished. Only now are we recuperating.
About three weeks ago the new hospital was opened. The strike itself did not produce this and did not indeed produce any agreement. But afterwards many conditions improved.
Dr. Luis Antillon
Antillon: Repression is increasing again. The presence of yourselves
[the delegation] is a restraining element. The changed status occurred in 1980 and is a
basis of the counter-insurgency funded by the U.S. This is based on the concept of low
intensity warfare. The main components of the war are:
So elections are very important to the social and economic perceptions
of opportunity. In the last five elections the socioeconomic quality of living had
deteriorated each time. In 1980, thirty percent of the population lived in extreme
poverty. Now according to ARENA statistics eighty percent. Productivity per capita has
fallen for the last thirty years.
This is our basis for saying that elections haven't helped. It is also
why we do not support the coming election.
The FMLN proposals have tempered the probable ARENA victory. Most important is the possible change in U.S. support. Quayle told Duarte to consider the FMLN proposal. That proposal was essentially to
1. reduce the military to 1970s level (from 60,000 to 16,000),
2. punish those responsible for civil rights violations,
3. put the security forces under the minister of the interior,
4. incorporate the FMLN into the security forces.
These proposals are a first in that the FMLN is willing to talk. But
they will never put down their arms. The war is so bad that they must talk. Seventy-five
thousand dead in ten years--"war and peace are two faces of the same coin" and
the meeting point is the area in between.
There are no hard figures relating voting to economic status. All
public employees or members of society that want to travel must vote or risk frequent
harassment when presenting their National Identification. At least 500,000 eligible
Salvadorans will not vote because the government records of their citizenship were lost
during the 1986 earthquake. Another 600,000 eligible Salvadorans will not vote because
they are out of the country. Most members of trade unions or of this University will not
vote for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Also most members of the Convergence will not
vote in accord with the government's refusal to discuss the FMLN proposal.
Salvador must deal with rebuilding. A great effort is necessary. The
U.S. must consider the need to contribute to the rebuilding effort as much as it has
contributed to military goals. The long term need may well be twenty years of high levels
The refugee problem is one we don't consider very often. Basically, the
U.N. is taking care of the Salvadorans, perhaps as many as a million, who have left
Salvador. We need a regime that will not punish them. The ARENA will probably keep
refugees out of the country. The ARENA goal is to rebuild the economy and refugees would
be a burden.
The exploitation of the periphery by core countries is an essential aspect of the capitalist world-system. Since World War II the United States has expended money and people in an effort to establish a stable world order. Much of the effort was in direct response to the USSR through the cold war. Some of the best people were lost in conflicts such as Korea and Vietnam.
The effort to attain a stable world order is the premise of the national security state. The United States is training and providing military equipment to governments around the world. This outflow of money and effort without a return is not predicted by the world-system model. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that countries which practice capitalism, but without the military expenditures the U.S. has, have passed the U.S. economically. The core countries that are supporting national security states are providing an umbrella for the remaining core capitalists.
In Chapter I, questions were raised about the necessity of repression with strictly vertical control, and the efficacy of military regimes. This thesis has examined El Salvador and shown that a robust interventionist policy of the United States has barely maintained a military government while resulting in tremendous human suffering. Despite $4 billion spent in a decade, the standard of living in El Salvador has fallen. In addition to the $4 billion in aid, Salvadorans working in the United States send $1.3 billion per year to families and organizations in El Salvador (Montes, 1988, p. 120). It has been an outflow of money without purchasing any capital goods capable of making money that can return to the United States. This establishes the conflict between the world-system model and the national security state.
The difficulty in establishing a military government which addresses the daily distribution of resources and basic needs of the population is a fundamental problem to the establishment of a neo-reservation model. Guerrilla tactics are too effective. The costs of maintaining a national security state when guerrillas are openly operating requires international capital that is getting scarcer.
Organizations such as UNADES, Co-Madres, and Fenastras were developed in response to societal needs the state was unable or unwilling to provide. These are nonvoluntarist (Skocpol) organizations that are responding to and utilizing international structures and world historical developments. The power of the state is its coercive capability, and that, in El Salvador, has been developed and maintained almost entirely by the United States.
When El Salvador modernized it did not take the masses along. Rather, as Walton predicted, large coffee growers forced rural peasants to relocate to urban areas where industrial development was pursued by the same large landowners or foreign capitalists without concern for creating high employment. This resulted in protest which eventually mobilized as a guerrilla armed force. The role of the state, directed originally by the wealthy and eventually by the United States, supported uneven class development and created the repression reported in Chapters II through VIII.
Brinton's themes of intelligentsia transferring allegiance, bitter class antagonisms, and state inefficiencies are all present. Of particular interest was the usurpation of power by the military when the ruling right-wing oligarchy tried to institute reforms in 1931. This appeared as a weakness as the old ruling class lost faith in its own ability to control the country without reforms.
Perhaps most important to protest mobilization is the difference between a community which is barely surviving, such as Community Soledad, and one which is working, such as Popotlan. Community Soledad was unable to organize any resistance and is almost totally dependent on charity organizations. Popotlan, with its large number of employed residents, is demanding more services, schools, and justice from the government.
The National Security State Type I model is an accurate conceptualization of El Salvador. It can be augmented by the neo-reservation model to depict the methods used by a coercive state to maintain power. Oppenheimer and Canning predicted a national security state would be the result of a narrow vertical government that has resorted to repression to control a country with massive unemployment. The national security state is dominated by an overwhelming dependence on foreign capital. They predicted the government would be unable to mobilize a significant plurality to support it. Consequently, the state would be left with only terror and coercive power to continue ruling.
This expensive national security state is a drain on American resources and does not benefit American capitalist interests.
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In 1989 the author tried to provide food and medical supplies to El Salvador through an effort called Voice of the Voiceless. Millions of dollars worth of aid had been gathered by churches and relief organizations around the United States. As a Roman Catholic and a member of El Rescate, the author was selected to be a part of the Delegation that would actually deliver the aid.
The caravan arrived at El Salvador's border with Guatemala in March during the national elections. President Duarte of El Salvador denied the caravan entry. This occurred despite the caravan having all the necessary permits and clearances secured in advance by the Kennedy Center and the Ecumenical Council of Churches, the two main sponsors. The author then went to San Salvador and spent two weeks videotaping, doing personal interviews, and participant observation during the election period. The material gathered is a rich ethnographic description of the subjective view and experience of the social conflict in El Salvador.
In El Salvador labor unions are fortified with sandbags and guards. Their members are subjected to kidnapping and bombings. One such union, Fenastras, had over thirty members killed by a car bomb two months after the author videotaped them.
Other organizations are made up entirely of women. These women have organized to help the needy and try to create a better life. One such organization, Co-Madres, is made up entirely of women whose sons or daughters were tortured and killed. They told of their efforts to help others. One of their biggest tasks is to find and identify the bodies of people "disappeared" by the Death Squad. (This use of "disappeared" is because of the difficulty in finding the often mutilated bodies.) The stories they tell are passionate examples of human suffering that occurs daily in El Salvador.
UNADES is an organization which distributes aid donated by caring people around the world. Their leader at the time of the author's visit was a woman named Tita Lopez Perez. She took the author to a number of urban communities that had been established by people forced by the government to leave their rural villages. Some of the communities looked so much like American Indian reservations the author started developing a concept of neo-reservationism to describe the social process which was occurring. As a participant observer, the author helped Tita establish medical clinics and instructed in basic sanitation procedures. Soon after the author returned to the U.S., Tita herself "disappeared."
The author spent the next two years doing graduate research in an attempt to find theoretical models that would help explain what is occurring in El Salvador. With Theda Skocpol, John Walton, and Crane Brinton for revolutionary theorists, the author used Immanuel Wallerstein's economic world-system model and Martin Oppenheimer and Jane Canning's political national security state model to present the Salvadoran material. Besides presenting the interviews and participant observations, the author contends the national security state as practiced by the United States in El Salvador does not benefit capitalist interests.