Letter to the Legislative Assembly from the Communities of San Esteban Catarina and Nuevo Gualcho

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San Esteban Catarina, March 15, 2019

Dear Representatives of the People of El Salvador,

We write to you from the communities of San Esteban Catarina and Nuevo Gualcho, in the departments of San Vicente and Usulután, to express our opinion on the debate surrounding the National Reconciliation Law.

We are the survivors and family members of the victims of grave human rights violations, such as the massacre of El Calabozo. This massacre was carried out by the Armed Forces of El Salvador between the 17th and 22nd of August, 1982. More than 200 people from our communities were cruelly killed during the massacre. The majority of the victims were children and the elderly, although pregnant women were also among those killed. It is still difficult for us to express the fear and pain that we experienced.

We address you because we know that you have been debating a proposed new National Reconciliation Law, introduced by Deputy Rodolfo Parker. We wish to express our rejection of the proposal because it violates our rights as victims. At no point have we been consulted on the implementation of a law whose characteristics, without a doubt, constitute a new amnesty that favors the perpetrators. As victims we continue to be revictimized, when the State should be upholding human rights and, in this case, our rights as victims of grave human rights violations.

We ask that you respect the right to truth, justice, and moral and material reparations for the communities affected by such horrendous crimes. We also ask that you do not commit the abhorrent act of facilitating impunity by implementing a new amnesty law. This law would guarantee that the guilty parties evade responsibility for the massacre and other war crimes once again. It is for this reason that we demand a true reconciliation law, as was established by the 2016 ruling that declared the previous Amnesty Law unconstitutional. We still hope to clarify the truth about what happened, that justice be administered, and that you repair the damage for which the Salvadoran State is still indebted. We believe that creating another blanket amnesty would be a mistake and would revictimize us.

What we, as victims of this painful past, and society require is a law that guarantees our rights. Only then can this history of impunity change.

We would thus like to express the following:

  • We believe that it’s important for those who suffered the atrocious crimes committed during the armed conflict to know the truth about what occurred. We, the victims, are prepared to forgive, but we want to know the truth about what was done.

  • That you open the archives documenting the acts committed against civilian populations, and that those responsible explain why those acts were committed.

  • We would like a clarification of the events of the massacre and a recognition of the fact that our relatives were defenseless. All of this is necessary for the truth to be known.

  • We want a fair trial, to know who ordered and carried out these inhumane acts, and that they accept responsibility for their crimes and ask us for forgiveness.

  • That the sentencing of those responsible would help heal our wounds. What they did is not something that can be repaired; they cannot bring our family members back. However, justice helps because it acknowledges that they committed inhumane acts.

  • That these crimes do not remain in impunity.

  • The majority of the victims are elderly and impoverished. For this reason, we request reparations that allow them to live comfortably, such as: dignified housing, quality healthcare, psychosocial attention, scholarships for their children and grandchildren, agricultural assistance, road improvements, and economic compensation.

  • The promotion of historical memory in order to restore the dignity of the victims. To accomplish this we request the construction of a monument to honor the victims, the declaration of commemorative days, petitions for forgiveness from the perpetrators, and that those responsible for the massacres not be honored.

Despite our age and the hardships we face, we continue waiting for truth and justice. We have had to live with the memories of the massacre every day, and our wounds will not heal while those responsible for the crimes are granted impunity or the events of the massacre are invalidated.

Despite our differences, we unite in solidarity with other communities that have been affected by war crimes.

We hope that our letter and suggestions are heard, and that, AS THE LEADERS OF OUR COUNTRY, YOU DO NOT MAKE THESE MISTAKES AGAIN.

Sincerely,

Signed the affected families, and surviving victims of grave human rights violations.

[76 signatures]