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Enemies of War

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The People

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Father Jon Sobrino Father Jon Sobrino:
In 1980, our house was dynamited twice, rather heavily, and machine-gunned. In those years we had to make a decision. Are we going to stay here in this country or leave? So, we, I and the rest of us, decided to stay in this country. We accepted the possibility that something would happen to us.

Margarita Acosta de Alas Salvadoran civilian Margarita Acosta de Alas:
(in Spanish, with English translation)
As many as 15,000 soldiers would invade, and they would kill every living thing - animals and people - everything. We'd flee into the mountains hungry and didn't come back till night. In those days we didn't have to go far, just around here, but later the army's attacks intensified and we had to go much farther away because things got worse. Then there were elderly people who said, "I can't go, I'm staying here." They would stay in their houses and we would find them in little pieces. And then there were women with lots of children, perhaps pregnant women, and they would say, "What would I do out there with my children? I'm staying here." And then they were lined up and machine-gunned to death, or sprayed with a liquid and burned alive, or they would cut open the pregnant women and take out their baby.

Rigoberto Acosta de Alas FMLN Member Rigoberto Acosta de Alas:
(in Spanish, with English translation)
That's when the death squads were on the streets and whoever went outside would die. Anyone who dared to go out could consider himself or herself dead. In the streets we found decapitated bodies everywhere. So, we would say to ourselves, having seen all these dead people, maybe our sons and daughters might be killed and abandoned too.

Rigoberto, Margarita's husband, is one of the thousands of Salvadorans who joined the FMLN.

Then seeing that this was happening on a national level, if my family stayed with me they would die. So, I decided to die for them.

Update on Rigoberto Acosta de Alas

Father Dean Brackley Father Dean Brackley:
During the war when very few people could speak out - and even fewer with moral credibility - these men, the Jesuits, were able to speak out and insisted on speaking out. And speaking out the truth. That's really why they were killed.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero:
(in Spanish, with English translation)
There is an institutionalized violence that provokes the anger of the people. It is a violence that comes from the right. They want to maintain their privileges through oppressive means. The oppressed, on the other hand, react to this violence and are labeled leftists. But as long as the violence from the right continues then the right is to blame for this situation.

William Walker Former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador William Walker:
I've often said that in El Salvador when you hear something has happened, your first reaction is, oh, the obvious has happened; the Jesuits are killed, it must have been the Army or the right. And you're no sooner settling into that analysis when the next person comes into the room and says no, it wasn't the right it was the left, they were trying to blame the right. And you're no sooner settled into that as a possibility, when someone else gives you a third variation. Within days, within hours you're so engulfed in rumors, theories, analysis that it becomes very, very difficult to untangle the whole thing.

Jim McGovern Former Congressional Aide Jim McGovern:
The United States government basically, as soon as that trial was over, was like, "It's over, we're done. Isn't this fabulous? We had a trial, actually people got convicted, isn't that wonderful, what a great day for justice in El Salvador! But, let's just end it." But, it wasn't the whole truth. The truth was that in addition to the guys who pulled the trigger, there was a meeting to plan the killings, which was attended by among others, the minister of defense. And, that the guy who was really instigating this was, at the time, the head of the Air Force, General Bustillo. You know, there was a massive cover up in the Army.

General Colin Powell General Colin Powell:
I wanted to take the opportunity to express once again, my admiration for the El Salvadoran armed forces, for the leadership that Minister Ponce and the other gentlemen here today have given to those armed forces.

Joe Moakley Congressman Joe Moakley:
Indirectly we're responsible for a lot of damage that's been done in that country. You've got a country that's been split in half, you've got a country that's got about 50 percent unemployment, you've got a country that's just now entering into some kind of democratic process. I feel a responsibility. I think that we've spent $6 billion down there helping to destroy the place, I think we should spend a couple of dollars putting it back together again.

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