EL SALVADOR: FMLN resists wave of repression

November 17, 1993

Lara Pullin

"I'm letting you know they have killed my parents ... I don't know exactly at what hour but it was early this morning ... you are my only family now, and we can't rest until justice is done." On the morning of July 1, members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and solidarity activists around the world received this heartfelt plea from Marina "Mariposa" Manzanares, the well-known, brave and inspiring voice of Radio Venceremos during El Salvador's protracted civil war.

Juana and Francisco Manzanares's family are well-known activists. Mariposa's brother "Paco Cutumay" was the lead singer of the popular band Cutumay Camones, which was part of the national liberation movement. He was one of the first political prisoners captured in the 1980-91 civil war and was assassinated by the National Civil Police in 1993.

Salvadorans are accustomed to violent military dictatorships and coups, as this tiny and very picturesque Central American nation was ruled by dictators for most of the 20th century. Today, the right-wing Arena party governs on behalf of El Salvador's elite, which includes the vast business interests of the former murderers granted impunity after the long and bloody civil war. Despite the negotiated end to the war and the FMLN's transition from guerrilla struggle to mass political and parliamentary activity, the Arena party has again resorted to violent means to enforce its unpopular neoliberal economic policies.

El Salvador's usually bloodthirsty media barely reported the murder of Mariposa's parents. Most media made a small mention of a robbery-related killing, but failed to report the three hours of torture, the covering up of evidence with oil and lime, and that the only items missing were FMLN-related paraphernalia, T-shirts and posters, memorabilia of the Manzanares's son and anything coloured red. Yet thousands of people responded on the streets, rallying to support Mariposa, the local community of Suchitoto and the FMLN, and to denounce violence and the death squads and to call for an end to impunity.

Mariposa and her family had received many death threats prior to the murders, and she continues to be threatened and harassed. Twelve other FMLN militants have been murdered in the past three months in a resurgence of repression of the FMLN and popular movements. At the same time the Arena government has encouraged the flourishing of criminal gangs and activities, which also serve as a cover for the government's failures to manage the economy in the interests of the majority of the population.

On July 5, secondary students organised a protest in San Salvador against bus fare hikes and increasing energy and food costs, which was met with violent repression by riot police. A large number of police as well as snipers and attack helicopters were deployed near the National University, where police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at students. Two police officers were killed in the clashes.

The police violated the university's legal autonomy by occupying the campus for four days, evacuating more than 700 people and capturing 30 students, who were released from jail after four days due to lack of evidence. A university administrator was gravely injured by police, with a bullet lodged near his heart.

Shortly after the violence broke out, President Tony Saca told the media, "I formally accuse the FMLN of being behind these actions". At a press conference, the government tried to justify the use of force by police, falsely claiming that the students were armed with AK-47s.

According to Beatrice de Carrillo, head of El Salvador's Human Rights Office, the violence on July 5 was the worst human rights abuse documented since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992.

Trade union offices were raided under the pretext of looking for the students'/FMLN's illegal arms caches and FMLN National Assembly deputies have been harassed. A visit to the home of FMLN deputy Blanca Flor Bonilla by police in riot gear and masks, who threatened her safety in front of her children, left the popular organisations fearing the worst from the Saca government's support for violent repression and death-squad tactics.

Saca has also pledged to shut down the FMLN by appealing to the United Nations to declare the FMLN an armed terrorist organisation that should be proscribed from political participation. The FMLN is Arena's major opposition and governs more than half the population at the municipal and state level and has the single biggest number of deputies of any party in the National Assembly. During the unrest Arena also tried to enact draconian new "anti-terrorism" laws, but failed to convince the assembly to pass them.

The FMLN has pledged to continue to operate as a party of the people and the social movements, committed to peaceful democratic processes and to continued disarmament in El Salvador, especially of the repressive forces of the state. The FMLN has called on all Salvadorans to express their opposition to the social and economic mismanagement of the Arena government and its latest repressive measures. A mass demonstration is planned in San Salvador on July 15 involving trade unions, student organisations, feminist collectives, the churches and other movements united against the violence.

From Green Left Weekly, July 19, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.