Moral Low Ground


‘The Moral High Ground’: El Salvador President Mauricio Funes Apologizes for 1981 El Mozote Massacre of 1,000 Peasants by U.S.-Backed Atlacatl Battalion

El Salvador’s leftist president has apologized for a 1981 massacre of around 1,000 peasants carried out by U.S.-backed government troops fighting a rebel insurgency.

The BBC reports that President Mauricio Funes tearfully apologized for the El Mozote Massacre, which took place between December 11- 13, 1981 in a remote village near the Honduran border. Members of the elite, U.S.- armed, funded and trained Atlacatl Battalion entered the village, rounded everyone up, separated the men from the women and children, and began executing every last one of them in a two-day orgy of rape and murder. Almost no one from the village survived.

An overdue but welcome apology. (Photo: Wilson Dias)

Ten of the 12 officers implicated in the El Mozote Massacre were trained by the United States in kidnapping, torture and assassination at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, then located in Panama.

The Reagan administration tried to deny that any massacre had happened at El Mozote, and even as the slaughter continued unabated throughout the 1980s, Reagan and Congress doubled military aid to El Salvador. Salvadoran officers continued to get top-notch American training at the School of the Americas. The Reagan administration and much of the American mainstream media misled the public to believe that Washington was backing the good guys in the good fight against evil communists. But a United Nations report found that fully 85% of the more than 22,000 atrocities that occurred during the civil war in El Salvador were committed by the “good guys.”

All told, some 75,000 people perished during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. No one was ever tried for El Mozote; such an amnesty was the cost of ending the civil war in 1992.

Funes’ latest comments came on the 20th anniversary of the peace agreement that ended that war.

“For this massacre, for the abhorrent violations of human rights and the abuses perpetrated in the name of the Salvadoran state, I ask forgiveness of the families of the victims,” President Funes said on Monday in El Mozote.  “In three days and three nights, the biggest massacre of civilians was committed in contemporary Latin American history,” he added, breaking into tears.

Funes, El Salvador’s first leftist president in 20 years, was elected in 2009. He is a member of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), founded by communist guerrillas who fought the U.S.-backed government during the civil war.

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