Survivors commemorate 43rd anniversary of Sumpul River massacre

Ojos de Agua, El Salvador, May 14 (EFE).- Young people and survivors of the Sumpul River massacre, in which more than 600 people were killed by the Salvadoran armed forces, commemorated on Sunday the 43rd anniversary of the incident, which has never been investigated nor anyone convicted for the crimes.

The participants marched for a little over 4 hours from San José Las Flores municipality to Las Aradas, in Ojos de Agua, located more than 146 kilometers (91 miles) from San Salvador.

Cultural activities and a religious event along with a vigil by the young people were also held.

In May 1980, in the midst of the 12-year civil war between 1980 and 1992, hundreds of peasants were killed by the army, which implemented a “scorched earth” policy against them and linked them to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front guerrilla.

One of the massacres was the Sumpul River massacre, in which people trying to reach Honduras were shot dead by the armed forces or drowned while fleeing the violence unleashed by soldiers and agents of the now defunct National Guard and Democratic Nationalist Organization (ORDEN).

None of the people responsible for the massacre have been prosecuted.

According to the Truth Commission, people were killed on the banks of the Sumpul River, which serves as the border between El Salvador and Honduras, by members of the Salvadoran army, in complicity with the Honduran military, which prevented the passage of those who tried to take refuge in the neighboring country.

Those accused of ordering the Sumpul massacre and other massacres in Chalatenango, include generals, José Guillermo García and Juan Rafael Bustillo, and colonels, Ricardo Agusto Peña and Mario Reyes Mena, according to the Association of Survivors.

Also involved were members of the 12th Battalion, based in Santa Rosa de Copan from Honduras.

“Its been 43 years and no person has been prosecuted and detained in this case,” Alejandro Díaz, of the non-governmental organization, Tutela Legal Dra. María Julia Hernández, told EFE.

Julio Rivera, a survivor who fled to Honduras at the age of 7 because of the massacre, told EFE that the commemorative march was aimed at paying tribute to the victims and also demanding truth, justice, moral and material reparation from the State and the corresponding government structures.

“It is said that we should not reopen old wounds, it is the most absurd expression there can be, because the wounds are open, they are bleeding,” said Rivera, who returned to El Salvador in 1991 when he was 19 years old.

“Those wounds are not going to heal and close until there is a true process of forgiveness, there is a true process of justice, truth and reparation,” he added.

Diaz said the exhumation that began in late April in the rural village of Las Aradas had been suspended due to weather conditions.

According to Tutela Legal, this is the third stage of exhumations of remains of victims of the massacre and “seeks to recover more scientific evidence of the horrendous crime against the civilian population of several municipalities of Chalatenango and vindicate the memory of thousands of victims and relatives.”

“The investigation authorities took a long time, this (the exhumation) was scheduled for January and February (of this year), and now they are suspended until the end of winter, which may be in November,” Diaz said.

He pointed out that the process may even be resumed next year, which “delays the proceedings in the case.”

It is estimated that at least 60 massacres were carried out in the department of Chalatenango, in the context of the civil war. EFE


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