The El Mozote Massacre: Recent Salvadoran Efforts To Redress the Crimes

On December 11, 1981, the Salvadoran military detained and systematically executed virtually all of the 200 men, women and children in the small village of El Mozote in the northern part of the country.[1]

El Mozote Memorial
El Mozote Memorial

On the 30th anniversary of the Massacre (December 10, 2011), the Salvadoran Foreign Minister, Hugo Martinez, went to El Mozote and asked for forgiveness for the “blindness of state violence” and to honor “the memory of hundreds of innocent people who were murdered” in that Massacre.[2]

A month later, on January 16, 2012 (the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Salvadoran Peace Accords ending the country’s civil war), Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes went to El Mozote and announced various efforts to redress the crimes relating to the Massacre.[3]

President Funes @ El Mozote
President Funes @                  El Mozote

Funes publicly acknowledged that Salvadoran soldiers of the Atlactal Battalion had committed the massacre and apologized on behalf of the State for this atrocity. He asked for forgiveness for what he called “the biggest massacre of civilians in the contemporary history of Latin America.”

Funes said there could be no true peace until there is justice to provide compensation to victims and penalties for perpetrators. He also announced the following in response to the massacre:

  • He asked the Attorney General to review existing legislation and propose amendments or new laws to allow criminal sanctions to be imposed on those who participated in the worst human rights violations. Funes also noted that the Salvadoran Supreme Court already had decided that the General Amnesty Law did not protect those guilty of war crimes and could not be used to self-amnesty those who were in charge of the military during the period 1989-1994 (government officials from the Arena political party).
  • Funes instructed the Armed Forces to stop honoring former officers who were linked to this massacre, including Domingo Monterrosa Barrios, who was the commander of the Brigade involved.
  • He requested political parties and others to stop honoring people who could be linked to such violations, which was interpreted as a message to the ARENA political party to stop honoring its founder, Roberto D’Aubuisson, and to the FMLN party to do likewise with Shafik Handal.
  • The government will conduct an investigation to identify all victims of the massacre.
  • The government will create a National Reparations Program for Victims of massacres and other human rights violations.
  • The government will declare El Mozote a cultural center.
  • The government will establish a community health clinic for El Mozote.
  • The government will assist agricultural production in the area, construct paved roads and improve potable water service, build a lodging house for elderly people without families and provide computers to the local school.

I do not know whether and to what extent these promised actions were actually implemented. I invite comments with information on this issue.

Interestingly the apology by Foreign Minister Martinez and the announcement by President Funes came while a case regarding the Massacre was pending in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Its judgment on the merits was issued on October 25, 2012 and made public on December 10, 201s. It will be discussed in a subsequent post.

[1] A prior post set forth a brief summary of the facts of the Massacre, the investigation of same by the Truth Commission for El Salvador and the subsequent adoption of the Salvadoran General Amnesty Law and the dismissal of a criminal case on the basis of that Law. Another post concerned the proceedings about El Mozote in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. An excellent collection of posts about El Mozote is on “Tim’s El Salvador Blog.”

[2] Muth, El Mozote–30th anniversary commemoration, Tim’s El Salvador Blog (Dec. 12, 2011); Editorial: El Mozote, elfaro (Dec. 12, 2011) [Google translation].

[3]  This account of the January 16th statement is based upon the following: Assoc. Press, El Salvador: President Apologizes for 1981 Massacre, N.Y. Times (Jan. 16, 2012); Carias, Funes ordered the army not to call heroes human rights violators, elfaro (Jan. 17, 2012)[Google translation]; Editorial: Funes asks for forgiveness and to investigate war crimes, lapagina (Jan. 17, 2012) [Google translation]; Flores, Request for forgiveness includes repair programs for victims in El Mozote, Diario Co Latino (Jan. 17, 2012) [Google translation].



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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

2 thoughts on “The El Mozote Massacre: Recent Salvadoran Efforts To Redress the Crimes”

  1. Comment: Popular History of the Massacre of El Mozote

    The Salvadoran Ministry of Education [] has made available a popular history of the 1981 Massacre of El Mozote: El Mozote: Lucha por la verdad y la justicia (El Mozote: The struggle for truth and justice) [].

    The book was published by Tutela Legal, the (former) human rights office of the archdiocese of San Salvador, and is illustrated by drawings from the organization for popular education known as Equipo Maiz [].

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