El Salvador's Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez held a ceremony at El Mozote village to ask survivors' forgiveness for the "blindness of state violence" on Dec. 10, anniversary of the 1981 massacre there. "This event seeks to honour the memory of hundreds of innocent people who were murdered 30 years ago here in El Mozote and in nearby towns," said Martínez. El Salvador is today governed by the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), the former guerilla movement that won the country's election in 2009. (BBC News, Dec. 10)
However, the apology comes as the FMLN government seems to be tilting to the right. Last month, President Mauricio Funes swore in retired general David Munguía Payés as the country's new Minister of Public Security and Justice, following the sudden resignation of Manuel Melgar from the position on Nov. 8. The move prompted outspoken opposition from Salvadoran social organizations, who view it as a violation of the 1992 peace accords that transferred public security from military to civilian administration.
President Funes denied the "influence of foreign governments" in the cabinet switch. But Roberto Lorenzana, a spokesperson for the governing FMLN, said, "This was not a decision that the president made; he is simply a spokesperson. It's a decision that was made somewhere in the US capital."
A WikiLeaks cable from the US embassy in San Salvador reveals Washington's evident disapproval of Melgar—a former commander of the FMLN guerrilla army during the civil war. In the 2009 cable, the embassy official warns that funding for the Merida Initiative would be "contingent upon guidance from Washington regarding how best to work around Melgar."
According to the Salvadoran digital newspaper El Faro, the US finally forced Melgar out by leveraging a second international program, the Partnership for Growth. El Salvador is one of four countries worldwide chosen by the US for the new program. El Faro's sources in the Ministry of Security claim that Melgar's removal was a US condition for sealing the Partnership for Growth—officially signed just four days prior to Melgar's resignation. The program's initial report named violence and crime as El Salvador's primary constraints to economic growth—evidently turning what the US had publicly touted as an economic development program into another security initiative.
"It's shameful how blatantly the US is manipulating El Salvador's affairs of state right now," said Alexis Stoumbelis of the US-based Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), calling the apparent manipulation "a major violation of El Salvador's national sovereignty.”
Munguía Payés, a career military officer, has served as defense minister since President Funes took office in June 2009. He retired from the military earlier this year—sparking rumors that he resigned in order to run for president in 2014, as Salvadoran law requires candidates to have at least three years as a civilian. In response to Payés' appointment, the FMLN's Lorenzana said, "We do not support this decision, nor do the majority of political forces in the country." (CISPES, Nov. 23)