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Timeline Pages: 1 | 2

Timeline 1980-1988
U.S. Policy in El Salvadornext

Oscar Romero
Archbishop Romero
  • Civilians resign from Salvadoran government; the military and Christian Democratic Party form a new junta (ruling council).

  • On March 24, Monsignor Oscar Romero of the Roman Catholic Church is assassinated.

  • U.S. Congressional Committee debates military aid to El Salvador.

  • In October, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) is formed by five revolutionary organizations.

    Maryknoll nuns
    American churchwomen killed in El Salvador
  • Father Ignacio Ellacuria, a Jesuit professor at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador, receives death threats and the campus is bombed twice.

  • Ronald Reagan is elected president of the United States.

  • Six leaders of El Salvadoran opposition organizations are abducted and killed.

  • Four U.S. churchwomen in El Salvador are abducted, raped and killed. Read about the trial in "Justice Denied" by former ambassador Robert E. White

  • In January, the FMLN launches a coordinated military attack across El Salvador.

  • Salvadoran military occupies the UCA.

  • Outgoing U.S. President Jimmy Carter sends $5 million in emergency aid to El Salvador; the government describes the Salvadoran conflict as "...a textbook case of armed aggression by communist powers."

  • In December, approximately 1,000 villagers are massacred by the Salvadoran army in and around the village of El Mozote. The Salvadoran army and the U.S. deny that the massacre has occurred.

  • President Ronald Reagan certifies that El Salvador has complied with human rights conditions for receiving aid.

Chalatenango 83
Soldiers in Chalatenango
province, 1983
© David J. Monahan

  • Salvadoran army begins counter-insurgency strategy against FMLN rebels.

  • President Reagan appeals to U.S. Congress for increased aid to El Salvador.

  • Napoleon Duarte, a U.S.-backed Christian Democrat, is elected president of El Salvador.

  • Five Salvadoran national guardsmen are convicted of the 1980 murder of the U.S. churchwomen.

  • Talks between Salvadoran government and opposition organizations, including the FMLN, begin.

  • The U.S. Kissinger Commission calls for increased military aid to the Salvadoran government and attention to human rights.

  • The FMLN kidnaps President Duarte's daughter and a friend. Father Ellacuria and Monsignor Rivera Damas, archbishop of San Salvador, negotiate a prisoner exchange, resulting in the victims' safe release.

  • Salvadoran government and FMLN talks break down.

  • The ARENA Party increases its power in El Salvador and moves to strip Father Ellacuria of his citizenship.

  • Salvadoran government and FMLN resume talks in San Salvador.

  • The U.S. increases aid to El Salvador.

George Bush
President George Bush
  • Father Ellacuria meets with FMLN commandants in Managua, Nicaragua.

  • Father Ellacuria and Father Montes meet with Alfredo Cristiani, the future president of El Salvador.

  • George Bush is elected president of the United States.


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