El Salvador: A National Security State in the
Periphery of the World Capitalist System
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 EI
Rescate, the author was selected to be a part of the
Delegation that would actually deliver the aid.
The caravan arrived at El Salvadorís 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 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 the tell
are passionate examples of human suffering that occurs
daily in El Salvador.
Practical Academic Study Skills Page 65
UNADES is an organization which distributes aid donated by caring people around the world. Their leader at the time of the authorís 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 text 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 Wallersteinís economic world-system model and Martin Oppenheimer and Jane Canningís 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.
Page 66 Practical Academic Study Skills