Friday, November 30, 2012

A Balancing Act in El Salvador

Tim Hollins of El Salvador Solidarity Network (Esnet) has a good, quick overview of the war in El Salvador and the events of the last twenty years for the UK's Morning Star in A Balancing Act.
El Salvador in central America has a brutal past. It was a reactionary, feudal state up to the 1970s where 14 wealthy families, all with close ties to the US, owned virtually everything - land, and all the state apparatus of power.
The workers and peasants laboured in desperate conditions of widespread poverty, little health care or education and few rights. Massive inequalities in all areas of life led to an inevitable upsurge in demands for change.
As a protest movement began to grow in the mid-'70s, inspired by Cuba and the struggle of the Sandinistas in neighbouring Nicaragua, the Salvadorean state responded with massive repression in an attempt to annihilate the movement.
The death squad became the first solution of the state to any kind of opposition. The people reacted with thousands joining the Farabundo Marti Front of National Liberation (FMLN) guerilla organisation with the aim of bringing about revolutionary change. 
I would just say that, comparatively speaking, the United States did not have very strong relations with the Salvadoran elite prior to the late 1970s. It's not that they didn't have any, but El Salvador just wasn't that important. Coffee and most other agricultural production was in the hands of a nationalist, reactionary elite.

The first attempt at an armed resistance to the regime was in 1960-1961, immediately following the success of Cuban Revolution. It failed. The Communist Party of El Salvador (PCS) then committed itself to the electoral route to power. Cayetano Carpio and others left to form new rebel groups in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Most, if not all were inspired by the Cuban Revolution as well, but many of them were also inspired by liberation theology. These rebel groups carried out bombings, bank robberies, and kidnappings throughout the 1970s. They also worked to organize supporters in the countryside and to build mass bases in the cities. The increasing repression, electoral fraud, and the Sandinista Revolution all provided new recruits for the ERP, FPL, RN, PRTC and the FAL.

When the US, Christian Democrats, and moderate elements of the military favored political reform, land reform, nationalizations, and more professional counterinsurgency operations after the October 1979 coup, the extreme right continued to rely upon the use of death squads. These death squads, some operating within the Treasury Police and the Guard and others outside of government, killed four US churchwomen on December 2, 1980.

Anyway, Hollins piece is short and pretty good. He also has some things to say about postwar El Salvador. And, if you are in the neighborhood, he will be speaking at the Latin American Conference in London on Saturday.

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