El Salvador apologizes for Mozote massacre —as regime tilts right under US pressure

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)

See our last posts on El Salvador and the WikiLeaks revelations.

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  1. Very embarrassing for an
    Very embarrassing for an author who was probably not alive when the slaughter happened. Do your research. The Massacre happened in 1981, not 1991. Misinformation like this only contributes to other causes against those living in northern Morazan at the time. Ponte en la jugada ya.

  2. Funes government not FMLN
    To call the government of President Funes an FMLN government is simply not accurate. The FMLN and Funes built an alliance along with many other sectors to oust the 20 year civil dictatorship of the ARENA party. Funes has since built a coalition government that the FMLN has limited participation in (primarily limited to the social ministries-health, education, etc.) and tons of other folks are in the government. To say that the clear US intervention that caused Funes to get rid of the FMLN Minister of Public Security and replace him with a retired general means that the FMLN is turning right is a ridiculous conclusion. The centrist portion of the gov’t (the president included) is responding to US intervention and playing into the US militarization plans for Central America. The FMLN publicly denounced Funes’ decision and their concerns about US efforts towards militarizing the region.

    You should fully understand the context of where you are reporting on before making false statements and if you aren’t able to fully understand it, use your platforms to allow those who are living it to explain it to you.

      1. Please qualify
        your comment that the government is FMLN-led…
        El Salvador’s constitution gives the President the ultimate control over all executive decisions, President Funes does not respond to the FMLN, something he and the FMLN have said explicitly, he was not an FMLN militant. The members of the administration that negotiated the Partnership for Growth (the U.S. pressure that is pushing the gov’t to the right) are Alex Segovia (Technical Secretary to the President and NOT from the FMLN, but rather a World Bank representative) and the Economic Cabinet (which has no representation of the FMLN in it).

        1. FMLN is ruling party
          I appreciate your informative comments, and it is heartening to know that the FMLN isn’t going along with this Washington meddling. But Funes, whatever his history, ran on the FMLN ticket. It seems like the FMLN’s leadership in the government is being undermined by US manipulation of technocrats. But the FMLN is still the ruling party, at least technically. No?