El Salvador



Pre-World War II


  • Amidst the Great Depression around the world, El Salvador was in rebellion in 1932. The trigger was the coffee plantation owners' lowering of the already infinitesimal wages of their workers to try and reduce the effects of the depression. This revolt of peasants and other poor indigenous peoples was led by the Salvadoran Communist Party, whose central leader was Augustín Faribundo Martí.(9)
  • Backed and supported by the U.S., dictator and president Maximiliano Hernández Martínez had his military quell the uprising and execute its leaders. However, the government continued on to murder about 30,000 native peasants which came to be known as La Matanza.(10) Furthermore, with the support of the U.S. and the plantation owners, Martínez outlawed all trade unions in the country.(11)


Post-World War II

1960s and 1970s

  • Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, El Salvador was plagued by political turbulence and instability. The turmoil occurred largely due to the fact that the coffee plantation owners seized much of the land that the agrarian poor lived on. This displaced many Salvadorans forcing them to emigrate to Honduras, Mexico, and the United States. The demanding of land, employment, and free elections by mass demonstrations and protests in El Salvador were countered by right-wing military juntas and death squads. In 1972 and 1977, the National Guard carried out military coups in order to thwart the election victory of any candidate, which, of course, the U.S. did not hesitate to recognize as legitimate.(12)
  • The right-wing death squads in El Salvador were the most bloody and repressive than all of Central America. The most infamous one was the Organización Democrática Nacionalista (ORDEN) founded by General José Antonio Medrano who was on the CIA payroll.(13) ORDEN and other paramilitary organizations were responsible for assassinating many trade union and other political leaders as well as murdering thousands of workers who went on strike and students that were protesting.(14)


  • Another military coup was attempted in 1979 in order to prevent the elections from happening, however, the result was civil war throughout El Salvador.
  • The political violence against the Salvadoran population reached a high point as General Medrano and Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, both members of ORDEN, murdered catholic clergy and liberal humanitarian Archbishop Oscar Romero while giving mass in 1980. D'Aubuisson was a graduate of Washington, D.C.'s International Police Academy.(15) This led to the formation of various guerilla organizations, the most notable being the Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front.(16)
  • In the context of the Sandinista Revolution overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, the U.S. was highly concerned of the possibility of the same happening in El Salvador and throughout the rest of Central America. President Ronald Reagan was quoted in the New York Times March 1981 saying that in order "to halt the infiltration into the Americas, by terrorists and by outside interference, and those who aren't just aiming at El Salvador but, I think, are aiming at the whole of Central and possibly later South America and, I'm sure, eventually North America."(17)
  • The U.S. government gave the reactionary Salvadoran government a record of at least six billion dollars in aid (according to Blum the figure may never be known).(18) Seventy percent of this aid were specifically for "weapons and war assistance."(19)

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