A look back on El Salvador's civil war

The Washington Post runs a feature story today written by Manuel Roig-Franzia looking back on El Salvador's 12 year civil war, primarily through interviews with one guerrilla soldier and a government soldier who is currently the mayor of San Miguel:
SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador -- José Wilfredo Salgado says he collected baby skulls as trophies in the 1980s, when he fought as a government soldier in El Salvador's civil war. They worked well as candleholders, he recalls, and better as good-luck charms.

In the most barbaric chapters of a conflict that cost more than 75,000 lives, he enthusiastically embraced the scorched-earth tactics of his army bosses, even massacres of children, the elderly, the sick -- entire villages.

It was all in the name of beating back communism, Salgado, now the mayor of San Miguel, said he remembers being told.

But as El Salvador commemorates the 15th anniversary of the war's end this month, Salgado is haunted by doubts about what he saw, what he did and even why he fought. A 12-year U.S.-backed war that was defined at the time as a battle over communism is now seen by former government soldiers such as Salgado, and by former guerrillas, as less a conflict about ideology and more a battle over poverty and basic human rights.

"We soldiers were tricked -- they told us the threat was communism," Salgado said as bodyguards with pistols tucked into their waistbands hovered nearby at his home, ringed by barbed wire. "But I look back and realize those weren't communists out there that we were fighting -- we were just poor country people killing poor country people." (more)

Salgado, the mayor of San Miguel, has strongly denied collecting the skulls of children massacred at El Mozote as souvenirs, in an interview with El Faro. He claims the Washington Post reporter fabricated many of the quotes in the article.


Anonymous said…
I doubt that Will Salgado is having second thoughts on what he did, after all he was part of the Sombra Negra which continued the death squad legacy. He's a plain escuadronero and proud of it. Though this doesn't mean that there aren't any ex-soldiers that actually believed they were tricked by the oligarchy and the top commands, regret all the massacres they committed, and have even turned leftists (some going as far as believing that they fought for the wrong side). In this group people range from grunts who are stupefied with the millions members of the high command stole after the war, people that have been left living in poverty and struggling finding a job (going as far as taking merc jobs in Iraq), crippled ex-combatants that have been placed on the backburner (along with the majoriy of the population), and people that are just plain nauseus about the scorched-earth campaign they engaged on. But Will Salgado? I'm sure he isn't one of such people...
El-Visitador said…
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El-Visitador said…

It does not matter how many useful fools there were, or whether the useful fools understood Marxism or not.

Can anyone deny that if the terrorists had won, the leaders of the movement would have installed a Marxist government?
Anonymous said…
Hey Visitador,

Are you talking about the useful fools like D'aubuisson and other Right-Wing Terrorists, or who? According to what D'aubuisson's sister has said, Roberto D'aubuisson was just a USEFUL FOOL of the gringos.

Also, which terrorists are you refering to, the FMLN, or THE RIGHT WING TERRORISTS ARENA/PCN/ARMY/DEATH SQUADS?

According to the Library of Congress, there was RIGH WING TERRORIRSM in El Salvador.. go here:

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/csquery.html , then select El Salvador and Search for variants of search words, e.g.: "RIGHT WING TERRORISM", then click on "RIGHT WING EXTREMISM" - You'll find this text there:

"RIGHT-WING TERRORISM crested during the 1980-82 period. At the peak of the violence in late 1980, the monthly toll of politically motivated murders ran between 700 and 800. In the most publicized political assassination of this period, suspected rightists shot Archbishop Romero--an outspoken advocate of dialogue with the popular organizations and a critic of military repression--while he was saying mass on March 24, 1980 (see The Role of Religion , ch. 2). An extreme right-wing group calling itself the Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Brigade claimed responsibility for several assassinations of Christian democratic and Marxist leaders in San Salvador in 1980. Four churchwomen from the United States were murdered in December 1980. Several army officers were linked to the submachine gun killings of two land reform advisers of the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) in San Salvador's Sheraton Hotel on January 3, 1981, an act that was carried out by two GN corporals. After the cut-off of United States aid over the murders of the churchwomen, the Christian Democrats in the government were able to remove from command positions several key ultra-rightists, including Carranza, the deputy minister of defense and public security"
Data as of November 1988 -

So, again, Which terrorists are you refering to, the FMLN, or THE RIGHT WING TERRORISTS ARENA/PCN/ARMY/DEATH SQUADS?
Anonymous said…
I'll tell you who the useful fools were...

All the damn salvadoran grunts, the so called army men. Poor folks butchering poor folks, butchering their own communities, doing the oligarchy's dirty work... and now? Crippled, abandoned, jobless, migrating, serving as mercs in Iraq (just like all of right wing former death squad members like the kaibiles from guatemala), becoming the bodyguards of the cartels, turning into gangs... In other words they gave their blood and spilled thousands of gallons more of blood defending a system than now has the majority of them grunts just as screwed as those who formed the insurgency were.

Useful fools... But allow me to clarify. Were they useful to the whole country? Hell no. Such coupists, traitors, butchers, children of poor and killers of poor didn't pay any service to the country. They just proved to be useful to the mafias, to the minorities that keep screwing up the country.

I'm pretty sure that hey, if the biggest terrorist state in the world hadn't sabotaged Cuba, Nicaragua, and El Salvador had become a so dreaded "Marxist" state (assuming that all the leftists groups/ideologies that formed FMLN didn't fragment and chose communism as their plataform), we'd still be a more respectable country than what we are today. Education? Sure thing. Let us eliminate analphabetism... then we'll have a 100% capable work and do much more from then on.

And what is worse, is that hey the 1980 war had the same causes, the same members taking arms than during the 1932 uprising. I believe that the only certainty with people like ev is that expecting a civil war/uprising is fairly certain to occur every 20-30 years? Lucky for ARENA the folks that would take arms in this new war are either: migrating, sending remesas to the dispossessed left back home, migrating into the cities and turning to the informal sector, and some joining gangs to exploit the capitalist system by pillaging it rather than "fighting to bring a fairnes to us all".

By the way, visitador... STATE TERRORISM. That is what we had, that is what we have. State terrorism repressing the majority by hands of the "useful fools".
Anonymous said…
El Faro publishes today that Salgado denies the story attributed to him at the Post. http://www.elfaro.net/secciones/Noticias/20070129/noticias22_20070129.asp
Nelson de Witt said…
samuel I think its too easy to label them all as terrorist. My parents fought in the war in one of the sub groups under the FLMN but I don't think that makes them terrorists.

I believe they fought to make a better country for my siblings and I. You might call me naive but given how unevenly the wealth was distributed in the country I think they had some good reasons to fight.

I also agree with the comment about "State terrorism repressing the majority." The government (with help) was turning its own people against themselves.