2. SUMPUL RIVER SUMMARY OF THE CASE
On 14 May 1980, units of Military Detachment No. 1, the National Guard and the paramilitary Organización Nacional Democrática (ORDEN) deliberately killed at least 300 non-combatants, including women and children, who were trying to flee to Honduras across the Sumpul river beside the hamlet of Las Aradas, Department of Chalatenango. The massacre was made possible by the cooperation of the Honduran armed forces, who prevented the Salvadorian villagers from landing on the other side.
The Salvadorian military operation had begun the previous day as an anti-guerrilla operation. Troops advanced from various points, gradually converging on the hamlet of Las Aradas on the banks of the Sumpul river. In the course of the operation, there had been a number of encounters with the guerrillas.According to a report in Prensa Libre, Guatemalan forensic anthropologists are heading to El Salvador to assist in the search for and exhumation of victims from the Salvadoran civil war. One of the more well known and atrocious massacres on which they will be assisting occurred in May 1980 near Arcatao, Chalatenango and is noted above.
There is sufficient evidence that, as they advanced, Government forces committed acts of violence against the population, and this caused numerous people to flee, many of whom congregated in the hamlet, consisting of some dozen houses.
Ana García, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Center for Human Rights, is asking for witnesses and family members of possible victims to come forward with any information. I am wondering whether the political climate in El Salvador has changed enough so that people with information about the killings from the war (as witness or participants) now feel free to come forward.
A few years ago, a former soldier, José Wilfredo Salgado, spoke rather candidly about what his fellow soldiers had done at El Mozote and how it haunted him. However, he recanted soon thereafter saying that he was misinterpreted and tricked. Perhaps with a new administration in power, those who have something to share will feel more empowered to come forward with any information that they might have.