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US-El Salvador (1980-2002)

Project: History of US Interventions
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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The United States helps the Salvadoran government organize a rural paramilitary force known as the Democratic Nationalist Organization (ORDEN) and the Salvadoran National Security Agency (ANSESAL) under the auspices of General Jose Alberto “Chele” Medrano, who is a senior officer in the National Guard and Armed Forces High Command of El Salvador. As early as 1963, the Green Berets send over ten counterinsurgency trainers to help Medreno. Both agencies are formed with the stated purpose of combating communism. ORDEN is tasked with “indoctrinat[ing] the peasants regarding the advantages of the democratic system and the disadvantages of the communist system,” but also operates as an intelligence network. Intelligence relating to “subversive” activities will regularly be relayed to ANSESAL and then to the office of the president, who will then take “appropriate action.” ORDEN in particular will be later blamed for numerous human rights abuses, with Amnesty International accusing it of being created with the intention of using “clandestine terror against government opponents.” One of the offshoots of ORDEN, the White Hand (Mano Blanco), is later called “nothing less that the birth of the death squads” by a former US ambassador to El Salvador. (Nairn 5/1984; Montgomery 1995, pp. 55-56)

A group of reformist civilian and military officials in El Salvador organize a coup to overthrow the regime of General Carlos Humberto Romero. The group is made up of a mix of reformists with a genuine interest in political and economic reform and anticommunist hardliners concerned that the Romero regime was incapable of preventing a leftist uprising from taking over the country as had happened earlier in the year in Nicaragua. (Montgomery 1995, pp. 73-75) Two army colonels, Adolfo Arnoldo Majano and Jaime Abdul Gutierrez, serve as the figureheads of the new regime. They promise land reform, greater political tolerance, democratic elections, an end to corruption, and a stop to the harsh repression by security forces. (DeYoung 10/21/1979)

Almost immediately after a military coup in El Salvador is successful, reformist heads of the military junta are forced out and reactionaries are let in. Two rightists, Colonel José Guillermo García and CIA asset Colonel Nicolás Carranza, are given the positions of minister and vice-minister of defense, respectively. (Montgomery 1995, pp. 75-76)

El Salvador is ravaged by a bitter civil war leaving around 70,000 dead. (BBC 11/23/2005) The US provides military funding during this period to the tune of more than $5 billion. (Wood 2000, pp. 50)

US Army intelligence manuals provided to Latin American military officers attending the US Army’s “School of the Americas” advocate executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion against insurgents and sanctions the use of “fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth serum” to recruit and control informants. (Priest 9/21/1996)

The United Nations names the army officers who committed the worst atrocities of the civil war in El Salvador. Forty-five of the over 60 officers identified in the report, or nearly two-thirds, had been trained at the US Army’s “School of the Americas” located at Fort Benning, Georgia. (UN Security Council 3/15/1993; Monbiot 10/30/2001; Kloby 2003, pp. 272)

Amnesty International, in its annual report on US military aid and human rights, states that “throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or ‘disappeared’ at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame.” (Chomsky 1998)

A nonviolent demonstration is held calling on the US Army to close its infamous School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Rodriguez 11/19/2000; School of America's Watch 7/12/2001) The school trained more than 60,000 Latin American military officers over the past 50 years (CNN 4/3/2000) , many of whom were since implicated in egregious human rights abuses (see March 15, 1993). (Rodriguez 11/19/2000; Minor 11/20/2000; School of America's Watch 7/12/2001) 1,700 of the protestors are thrown in jail, including an 88-year old nun. (Minor 11/20/2000; Goodstein 6/24/2001)

US involvement in El Salvador is being put forward by some in Washington as a model for a possible solution for Colombia’s 30-year civil war. (Gibb 3/24/2002)


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