On Monday morning, January 16, crowds gathered in the small community of El Mozote to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords that ended El Salvador´s 12-year-long civil war. El Mozote, in the rural department of Morazán, is the site of a 1981 massacre of more than 1,000 civilians, primarily children, carried out by the Salvadoran Armed Forces. At the solemn event, El Salvador’s first leftist president, Mauricio Funes, named the military officers implicated in the horrific massacre, stating, we must “remove the veil that has blinded us for three decades.”
Mauricio Funes in El Mozote (presidencia.gob.sv)Funes asked for forgiveness from the victims and the Salvadoran people on behalf of the State and then announced a series of reparations for the victims and their families. In addition to physical and mental health services and an economic development plan for El Mozote, the government has promised to declare the community a protected historic site and has committed to updating public school curricula as well as police and military training materials to acknowledge the history of human rights violations by the armed forces.
Funes is the first president in Salvadoran history that has acknowledged the crimes against humanity committed by the government during the civil war that resulted in 75,000 deaths, in their majority civilians. However, the prosecution of the responsible actors is prohibited by an amnesty law approved in 1994 by the right-wing parties five days after the release of the U.N. Truth Commission report, which attributed 85% of civilian deaths to the armed forces and 5% to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).