El Mozote massacre

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The El Mozote Massacre ( Spanish La masacre del Mozote ) was a by members of the regular army perpetrated mass murder of civilians during the civil war in El Salvador . It was committed by the Atlácatl Batallón of the Government Forces (FAES) during an operation to combat guerrillas from December 10 to 12, 1981 in the cantons of El Mozote, La Joya and Los Toriles in the northern department of Morazán .

According to the investigation of the Truth Commission (UN commission investigating the acts of violence committed during the civil war in El Salvador), around 900 people in El Mozote and the surrounding cantons were murdered by the Batallón Atlácatl during the Operación Rescate . The massacre was the most violent attack by state power on the civilian population during the civil war and is considered one of the greatest war crimes in the history of Central America.

Memorial to the victims of the El Mozote massacre


The unit Atlacatl Battalion was under the supervision of the US - Colonels American US John David Waghelstein at the Military School of the Americas was formed from soldiers of the army of El Salvador. During its use in the Civil War, the unit received training from American Green Berets . In 1989 the Batallón Atlácatl was also involved in the murder of six Jesuit fathers in the Universidad Centroamericana of San Salvador, which was received with outrage around the world .

What is happening in El Mozote

On the afternoon of December 10, 1981, units of the Batallón Atlácatl of the FAES came to a remote part of El Mozote after meeting a section of the guerrillas . The Batallón Atlácatl was a Batallón de Infantería de Reacción Inmediata (BIRI) who had been specially trained to counter insurgency . It was the first unit of its kind for the FAES and was trained in early 1981 by military advisers from the USA. Under the name Operación Rescate , they had orders to displace the FMLN from North Morazan, where the guerrillas had several bases and camps.

The canton of El Mozote was a small rural settlement of about 25 houses around a square, with a Catholic church and a building behind it known as El Convento (the monastery). This is where the priests lived during their visits to the village. There was a school near the village. When the soldiers arrived, not only residents of the canton were present, but also farmers from the area, who had sought refuge in El Mozote. The soldiers ordered the residents to leave their homes and gather in the square. There they asked for information about guerrilla activities, then instructed residents to go back to their homes and be at their disposal. The soldiers stayed overnight and threatened with warning shots before leaving the village.

The next morning the soldiers let the population line up again. They separated men from women and children and took them in different groups to the church, the convent and several houses. During the morning there were indiscriminate individual interrogations involving torture . Around noon they began to separate the women and girls from the groups from their children, and to rape and murder them. Girls as young as twelve were raped and accused of being guerrilla sympathizers. Eventually the children were killed. The soldiers shot down the group of children locked in the church. After the entire population was murdered, the soldiers set the buildings on fire. The soldiers stayed in the village the following night.

What is happening in the surrounding cantons of El Mozote

The following day, December 12, the soldiers of the Batallón Atlácatl moved to Los Toriles, a canton two kilometers from El Mozote. Several of the residents tried to escape there. As in El Mozote, men, women and children were forced to leave their houses and stand in the square to be murdered. The Atlácatl carried out similar actions in other cantons, for example in La Joya on December 11th and in Jocote Amarillo and Cerro Pando on December 13th, 1981.

Earlier, on December 9, after a clash between government troops and guerrillas, a section of the Batallón Atlácatl entered the village of Arambala. They forced the villagers to step out into the village square and the men were separated from women and children. They locked the women and children in the church and ordered the men to stay. Several men were then accused of helping the guerrillas. They were handcuffed, tortured and taken away as prisoners. The residents of Arambala later found the bodies of three of the prisoners.

On December 10, 1981, another division of the Batallón Atlácatl occupied the Cantón Cumarol. Here, too, the residents were forced to stand on the square, they were also interrogated, but no one was killed.

The most revealing testimony about the events of El Mozote was that of Rufina Amaya, a survivor of the massacre. She gave her testimony in the investigation of the truth commission on the record. Until her death in March 2007, she fought for justice for the victims of the massacre.


On January 16, 2012, the then President Mauricio Funes visited El Mozote, condemned the massacre and asked the relatives of the victims for forgiveness during a ceremony. He called it an act of barbarism and named the names of the three highest-ranking commanders of the Atlácatl special unit as those responsible. He also ordered the armed forces to investigate their history.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. See Thomas Sheehan: Friendly Fascism. Business as Usual in America's Backyard , in: Fascism's Return. Scandal, Revision, and Ideology since 1980 , ed. v. J. Richard Golson, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1998, pp. 260–300 ( PDF ( Memento of the original from June 20, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check Original and archive link according to instructions and then remove this note. ). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / religiousstudies.stanford.edu
  2. Testimonio de Rufina Amaya trasciende su muerte ( Memento of June 16, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) , Diario Colatino Miércoles , December 12, 2007
  3. An apology 30 years after the massacre. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . January 17, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2012 .
  4. ^ Massacre in El Salvador: President hopes for forgiveness. In: Frankfurter Rundschau . January 17, 2012. Retrieved January 17, 2012 .