The Long War: Dictatorship and Revolution in El Salvador

By James Dunkerley | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION

Although this book contains more than its fair share of footnotes, it is the product not only of study and political conviction but also outrage. There is nothing especially commendable in this; indeed, angry books are often extremely hard to read and far from edifying. However, it is more than likely that many of the people who pick up this book will have shared, at some time and in some form, that sense of deep disgust and anger that I experienced one sunny day in August 1981. On my way home from work I picked up Meridiano, the midday paper of La Paz, Bolivia, to read that the armed forces of El Salvador were using guillotines to execute their prisoners. Some months later I saw the detailed denuncia of the workers of 'Quality Meats of Central America' which described how the victims were first stunned with an electric needle and then decapitated with the modern equipment of the slaughterhouse.

After reflection of the type that is not the privilege of those likely to have their lives ended in such a manner it became plain that this event stood apart from countless other instances of murder in cold blood in El Salvador precisely because of the needless trouble taken to kill. It was an almost cartesian act, undertaken with care and precision; the calculated nature of the butchery betokened a distinct sadism. Objectively there is nothing to distinguish this from the more common practice of the Salvadorean security forces of dragging sleepy peasants and workers into the cold night and beating, raping and burning them with cigarettes before they are shot and dismembered with machetes. However, I was reminded of the incident when listening to Luis De Sebastián of the Frente Democrático Revolucionario speak in London in October 1981. De Sebastián forcefully made the point that the barbarism in El Salvador was not unique to that country nor the sole responsibility of the indigenous forces of reaction; this Moloch is

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