Research: Publications

El Salvador's Death Squads: New Evidence from U.S. Documents

March 7, 1994 | Report

By Lauren Gilbert

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In October and November of 1993, a rash of killings in El Salvdor of ranking members of the former rebel movement, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), threatened to undermine El
Salvador's hard-won peace and threw into doubt the likelihood of free and fair elections. Concerned that the whole peace process could unravel, and for the personal safety of their members, high-ranking officials of the
FMLN met with United Nations officials to request an immediate investigation into the violence. In November, U.N. undersecretary Marrack Goulding made a special visit to El Salvador to investigate and U.N. secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali called for an "impartial, independent and credible" investigation into illegal armed groups, as had been recommended by the U.N. Truth Commission on El Salvador.

After weeks of difficult negotiations in early December, President Alfredo Cristiani finally agreed to the formation of a Joint Group whose mandate would be to investigate illegal armed groups and their possible
involvement with political violence during the two-year period since the signing of the peace accords.(1) Although the signatories to the accords and the United Nations recognized the implications of the recent violence for the ability to hold free and fair elections, they also acknowledged that a full-scale investigation could tell against ARENA, the ruling party linked to death-squad activities in the past, and could even destabilize the
political process by eliciting a violent response from ultra-rightist groups. Thus, it was agreed that the Joint Group's report would not be released until after the elections.

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