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El Mozote

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Mark Danner, an editor for the New York Times magazine, recounts in The Massacre at El Mozote a horrific crime against humanity committed by a branch of the Salvadorian army. He gives multiple points of views and cites numerous eye witnesses to try and piece together something that has been tucked away by the government at the time. In December, of 1981, news reports were leaked to major newspapers in the united states about an atrocity committed and a total massacre of a hamlet in El Salvador, known as El Mozote, or the Thicket. At first, the account was of over a thousand civilians, women men and children with no guerrilla affiliation were massacred. Danner pieces together the testimonies of the survivors, and interviews with officers in the Salvadorian army.

El Mozote was not affiliated with the guerrilla uprising at the time. It was a town that was seen as a last resort for fleeing civilians. There was supposed to be safe harbor there, as the rebels and army would be doing their fighting in the woods, away from civilians. On December 8th, peasants were straggling one by one into El Mozote, and were stretching the limits of the small town (Danner 34). Even the town mayor was under the impression that the citizens of El Mozote would be given clemency. They were instructed to keep off of the streets, to stay inside to avoid the fighting. Marcos Diaz, the mayor, recounts his seeming betrayal, "Wait!, he pleaded, They promised me nothing would happen to the people here. The officers told me so" (Donner 64). he was correct, the citizens of El Mozote were supposed to have clemency, they were not to be harmed.

A supposed "elite, American trained" arm of the Salvadorian army, Atlacatl were acting on their own. They had basic training from the Americans, but their extensive training came at the hands of Monterrosa (Donner 50). These seemingly advanced troops were anything but. They "shot animals and smeared the blood all over their faces, they slit open the animal's bellies and drank the blood"(Donner 50). So, a renegade unit led by a renegade general were supposed to show mercy to a guerrilla infested hamlet? The answer would become obvious.

An important source of information during this otherwise chaotic time was Radio Venceremos. This renegade radio station broadcasted from a hidden location. It informed the civilians where to go, and what was going on in the war (Donner 34).

El Mozote did not harbor guerrillas. As stated by Danner, "They were victims of this whole thing... If they could get away by giving guerrillas some corn and chickens, and still live on their farms, that is what they would do. At the same time, if the people had to get by by giving corn and chickens to the half a dozen Guardia Nacional who were living in their town, then they would do that - whatever it took to enable them to live" (Danner 119).

The massacre was a horrific spectacle. The men were decapitated in front of their families. "the soldiers dragged the bodies and the heads of the decapitated victims to the convent of the church, where they were piled together" (Donner 70). Next came the women. They took the women into groups and lied to them citing that they would be able to go free to their homes, once they had been separated. Instead, the soldiers marched the women into the hills surrounding El Mozote known as El Chingo and La Cruz (Donner 71). The women were systematically raped, some as young as ten years old. These barbarians came back and took the women group by group. Eventually, once they were done, they led the women into houses. Amrosiano Claros' house was one of them, and they torched the houses, burning the women alive (Donner 73). The facade that anyone would walk away from El Mozote was quickly abandoned. They were all going to die at the hands of a crazed renegade branch of the Salvadorian army, headed by a ruthless leader that held idol status among his men.

The final stage in the purge was the destruction of the children of El Mozote. Soldiers were overheard conveying some degree of humanity in that they did not want kill children. But, as was said by the other solider "We have orders to finish everyone and we have to complete our orders. That is it"(Donner 75). There were perhaps thirty children that were being killed in a variety of inhumane ways. Donner recounts an interview with a man named Chepe Mozote, that he saw the soldiers. "they slit some of the kids throats, and many they hanged from a tree." He luckily got away, but the rest of the children did not fare as well. There were disagreements among the soldiers as to what to do with the children in the schoolhouse. Finally, they strafed the schoolhouse with bullets from their American automatic weapons and burned the schoolhouse and everything inside of it. So ended the massacre at El Mozote, everything dead and decimated, with



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