From Vietnam to El Salvador: The Saga of the FMLN Sappers and Other Guerrilla Special Forces in Latin America

From Vietnam to El Salvador: The Saga of the FMLN Sappers and Other Guerrilla Special Forces in Latin America

From Vietnam to El Salvador: The Saga of the FMLN Sappers and Other Guerrilla Special Forces in Latin America

From Vietnam to El Salvador: The Saga of the FMLN Sappers and Other Guerrilla Special Forces in Latin America

Synopsis

Spencer provides a history of the FMLN guerrilla special forces--known collectively by the acronym FES--in El Salvador. Trained in Cuba and Vietnam and utilizing techniques taken from the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army, the FES terrorized the armed forces of El Salvador from 1981 to 1992. After reviewing their training, Spencer examines the major operations of the special forces and gives an in-depth discussion of their tactics and methods. He concludes with a look at the special forces groups in other Latin American countries.

Excerpt

During the armed conflict carried out in El Salvador against International Communism during the decade of the 1980s, both the armed forces and the fmln continually developed the use of special forces as the mechanism to defeat strategic objectives. However, the fmln fes also played an important role at other levels, such as the operational and tactical levels.

The concept of the use of the fes by the fmln came onto the Salvadoran scene as one of the contributions of Cuba during 1981 and 1982. Insurgent elements from the erp and the fpl were given training in the school at Matanzas, Cuba. Later, this program was extended to the other organizations of the fmln such as the fal, rn, and the prtc. However, these latter groups did not produce as spectacular results. the politico- military leadership of the erp and fpl did apply the special forces concept in the strategic context. They used the fes against big objectives in the rear areas of the armed forces, especially against economic objectives that affected things on a national scale. Examples of this are the downing of the Oro and Cuzcatlan bridges. in real terms, the destruction of these bridges was an attempt to isolate the eastern region of the country and establish liberated territory.

In simplified form, the fmln fes applied their efforts on the different war fronts in the following manner.

On the strategic level, they made efforts against strategic targets such as the vital installations of the Air Force, the Third Brigade, the Fourth Brigade, and the cemfa (Armed Forces Training Center). They attacked the headquarters of these units, causing terrible damage to equipment and personnel.

At the operational level, the fes acted with less intensity against the operating units of the armed forces. in other words, they attacked the im-

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