Su Versión de los Hechos Contradecía La Mía.

29 Sep

Listening To: “La La Lie” – Jack’s Mannequin, Everything in Transit

A continuation of the last post…

We met with a member of the parliament from the ARENA party first, who had also been the mayor of San Salvador for some time. He gave us some background on how he became involved in the party and then opened the floor for questions, and like a true politician, had a very different way of answering the questions. I have so much to say about this visit (as I am sure you can all imagine I would after visiting with a conservative political party), but I will try to only present you with some of the things that impacted me the most from our visit with ARENA. It is well known that the ARENA party allied with the military and oligarchy in power during the war (although the representative denied it), and also through studies the UN has determined that about 90% of the human rights violations occurred by the hands of the military, while 10% were because of the FMLN/guerillas. When confronted with this issue, the representative assured us that abuses were committed by both sides, but that the civilians were not involved in the conflict and that the “conflict” could not be considered a civil war. An interesting contrast to our morning, as we had seen a monument dedicated to tens of thousands of individuals, citizens, who had been killed or disappeared during the war, and then went to the site where six priests were killed, as well as two women who just happened to be nearby at the time of the homicides. But civilians weren’t affected by the war.

Another personal gem was hearing the representative gush about how “lucky” the ARENA party was that Reagan was in power during the war, and admitting that without the military aid from the United States during the war, ARENA would have lost. This is interesting on many fronts. First, it should be noted that the United States was sending millions of dollars each day to the military of El Salvador in order to “support democracy,” using Cold War sentiments as justification for the slaughter of civilians. Along with the inordinate amount of money, the United States was also training the Salvadoran military in torture techniques and “counter-insurgency” tactics which were designed to destroy any community that may support the guerilla movement, even if there was no actual connection to the FMLN. But of course, as we already heard, there were no civilians involved in this war. Additionally, by admitting that without the aid of the United States the military and government – the groups with the most power and all of the wealth of the country – would have lost the war, the representative was admitting that the guerilla movement had an incredible amount of support and that the guerillas had enough power to take down the opposition without any of the technology, money, or land that the government had. But obviously we shouldn’t pay attention to the idea that perhaps the guerilla movement had so much support because there were actually serious issues to which the government of El Salvador (and the United States, for that matter) should attend.

What about other, more current issues, outside of the war? Well, when addressed with the environmental crisis of his country, the representative determined that environmental issues are “not part of the political agenda” and that they are “global issues, not Salvadoran issues” (although when addressed by the FMLN, it was made clear that environmental issues were only not a part of ARENA’s political agenda). Immigration is a really important issue for El Salvador as more than two million people live outside of the country and the economy is held up by remittances (the money sent back by people who have left the country). To ARENA? It is best to “look the other way,” as “it can’t be stopped.” How to take care of issues of gang violence? Take no prisoners. Death, not jail.

The FMLN, although still politicians, provided a very different experience. They took all of our questions at the beginning so that they could make sure they had time to answer all of the questions that we had, and grouped them together in a way that they could talk fluidly about everything without needing to backtrack. They addressed the issues of crime and violence, women’s rights, health care, foreign policy, the economy, the war, and more, by discussing the programs that the FMLN has put in place in order to take care of issues and bolster improvement. (Very different from the representative from ARENA, who instead of discussing the platform or programs for different issues, merely indicated over and over that “they aren’t currently in power,” and then dismissing the issues). And the FMLN opened our eyes to many actions that were taking place to deal with problems that ARENA neatly ignored. The environment? Wait, it’s actually being addressed? The FMLN told us about new laws, a new commission on climatic change, actions to address clean water, reforestation, toxic waste, etc. And instead of turning a blind eye to immigration, the FMLN recognizes that more jobs, better wages, and less violence within the country would lead to more people staying in the country. And while they work on that, they are also working on family re-unification by creating programs that provide assistance to immigrants and will bring them back to their original towns. Additionally, they are creating sustainable productive projects (such as a farm created for single moms) that will allow people to continue to live in El Salvador or move back and have a place to earn a living.

Perhaps one of the more shocking moments of both of these talks was started when the ARENA official told us a story about the man with whom we would be meeting from the FMLN. As the man from ARENA told it, there was a committee created after the war to discuss the aftermath of torture and what should be done to address the atrocities of the conflict. Our representative from the FMLN was also present at the meeting, and during the meeting he stood up and announced that the facilitator of the meeting (a member of the ARENA party) had been his torturer during the war. Obviously, our representative from ARENA assured us, this wasn’t true, and weren’t we glad that he had warned us about the crazy person we would be meeting in ten minutes from the other political party? And sure enough, our representative from the FMLN also told us the story when asked if he could ever forgive the members of the government and military who had caused so much pain to himself and his family during the war. He told us how he addressed his torturer in the meeting and that the torturer made a joke about it in front of the others, but later asked for forgiveness for what he had done. And yet, the United States continues to align itself with the ARENA party, and even now that the FMLN is in power, there are important members of the FMLN party with whom the United States government refuses to talk or address because of their involvement with the guerillas during the conflict. I truly have no words, and yet millions of words, to describe how unbelievable this is to me.

Just some things for us all to think about, I guess. And perhaps we can wonder why I can not remember ever learning about El Salvador in history class during high school, but the United States played a huge role for over a decade in their war.



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