Salvadoran secret military archives discovered

In a stunning turn of events, the broadcast of Niños de la Memoria in the U.S., with its urgent message to open the Salvadoran military archives in order to help find the disappeared children, coincides with the revelation of the first discovery of Salvadoran military archives – not opened by the army or the government, but found hidden in a house in San Salvador.

A reporter in El Salvador has just disclosed the existence of two volumes of secret military archives maintained by the Salvadoran army during the war. The archives include a list and photos of nearly 2,000 people who were detained or sought and a detailed account of “interviews” with nearly 100 people about their activities; many of the people identified in these archives disappeared or were known to have been assassinated during that time.

Reporter Edgardo Ayala, in an article that was published initially by the Inter Press Service on June 20, 2013, and reprinted on several other sites since, describes one of the books in the archives, titled Libro Amarillo (Yellow Book), as having certainly been “written by the joint chiefs of staff of the armed forces, whose initials EMCFA – for Estado Mayor Conjunto de la Fuerza Armada – can be seen clearly printed on each of its 270 pages.”

Niños de la Memoria advisory committee member, Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive, has issued a statement in response to the article:

“The National Security Archive has been working for over a year with colleagues in El Salvador and the United States to evaluate and analyze the Libro Amarillo. Although our investigations are ongoing, the document is consistent with records produced by other Latin American security forces during the cold war era to identify, track, and eliminate suspected subversives through detention or death. The Archive is preparing to post the document in its entirety on our Website so that it will be accessible to anyone with an interest in military archives, forced disappearance, or the history of El Salvador’s brutal civil war.”

The discovery of the archives, in a house in San Salvador two years ago, is extremely significant. Since the war ended in 1992, the Salvadoran military has denied the existence of any such archives and no government, including the current one, has investigated, at least publically.  The current president Mauricio Funes – representing the first elected government of the war-time guerrilla coalition, now a political party, the FMLN — has on many occasions recognized the human rights violations committed by the Salvadoran armed forces during the war.

Niños de la Memoria includes a brief but compelling interview with the former Minister of Defense, David Munguía Payés (appointed by Funes), in which he pledges full cooperation in any initiative to open the archives.  But up to this moment, there has been no indication of either the armed forces offering the military archives, or President Funes requesting them.

So far, the Salvadoran government and the armed forces have refused comment on the presumed archives that have come to light.

Carlos Henríquez Consalvi, founder and director of the Museum of the Word and Image in San Salvador, the largest public collection of archival material related to the Salvadoran war, and dedicated to preserving the oral history and historical memory of that time, is convinced that the archives are the military records they appear to be.

“Only a structure of the state, organized for repression, could gather together so much information with photos, names of people, trip logs, etc., and for that reason I believe that the documents are authentic.”

A valued partner in securing archival material included in Niños de la Memoria and in disseminating the film especially to youth groups and in rural communities throughout El Salvador, Consalvi added, “It seems fundamental to me that the families of the victims, and the entire society, should have access to these documents, as part of the progression to truth and reparation.”

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