Manifesto of the Ex- Political Prisoners Committee from El Salvador

27 Ago

Manifesto of the

Ex- Political Prisoners Committee from El Salvador

Until 1980, just at the meridian of the armed conflict, the revolutionary combatants or those suspected of being so, the leaders of social organizations and any person who opposed or was suspected of  opposing the regime, were oppressed, tortured, assassinated and displayed or disappeared.  They were pointed out as “terrorists” or “traitors to the father land”, incarcerated like criminals, in an arbitrary way and with no access to justice.

They were taken to “special courts”, subjected to the application of “special” laws such as the Warrant of the Public Order and the Law of Emergency.  These incarcerations were often prolonged and surrounded by abusive processes and the permanent repression of the prisoners who were not recognized nationally and internationally as political prisoners.

These captures, the interrogations and the confessions occurred within an extra-juridical process; the captures were done under the darkness of the night, or within the terror provoked by enlarged operatives set to withdraw suspicious people from their homes. This practice allowed arbitrary acts that culminated in disappearances, assassinations and in a very few cases with the reference to penitentiary institutions.

During those times, the security corps, which were really repressive corps, were allowed the unrestricted use of methods of capture and torture. Forced disappearance became one of the favorite methods of the State and its supporters.  The instructors of the “specialized centers in antiterrorist struggle” from the School of the Americas in Panama, United States, the Chilean “carabineros”, the Argentinean Army,  the Guard of Somoza, the intelligence of the Venezuelan State, the Jewish State, the South African regime, Taiwan and others assessed the dynamic of the different centers of torture in this country.  By the middle of the 70s the practice of terrorism by the State was entirely established in the country.

The prisons were full of tortured prisoners, the survivors of those times who, loyal to their critical conscious and to their principles, constituted themselves in the middle of the prisons in a clapper that used to hit the conscious of their captors and assassins, and were encouragement to the thousand of fighters for freedom, human rights and against the dictatorship.

The formation of the Comité de Presos Políticos de El Salvador -COPPES-, (Political Prisoners of El Salvador Committee- Coppes- acronym in Spanish to be used) located in the then Penitentiary Center of Santa Tecla, and later in the Penitentiary Center of Mariona and “Jail for Women”, and its endurance during the army conflict made possible the formation of men and women truly committed to the aspirations of freedom of this people, brought together their families and converted themselves in brothers and sisters during these hardest moments of their personal history.

COPPES brought peace and hope to the relatives of our dead and disappeared, COPPES strengthened the social fighter with a conviction to win. It allowed us to transform our captivity into school. COPPES showed our captors, torturers and jailers the immense ability to love that we had and the creative way to display the needed energy to keep going while building a “more just and human society” for the majorities who were traditionally exploited, repressed, oppressed, marginalized, discriminated and humiliated in this country.

Many youths and adults became themselves as the reference of a whole nation, demanding the freedom of their country in spite of the sacrifice of their own liberty.  Raised voices demanded to the State its recognition to their status as political prisoners.  Consciences forged into one, demanding the solidarity of other countries of the world with our struggle, that titanic endeavor – little or not known – that embraced the conscious of every body and made them one.

René Cruz, Pancho, Tono Morales, Hernán Texpan, Blandino Nerio, Herbert, Raúl Escamilla, Carlos, David, and others are still in our recollection as the founders of an incredible effort of resistance to torture and to hope for life. Besides them, the invaluable support of our mothers and relatives as well as from the compañeras (vendors) from the markets to whom we were like children: la Toña, la Toya , la Chelita and so many others accompanying our struggle and our joy within the walls of the prisons which we converted into schools.

Many of us we recollect clearly the whole meaning of COPPES, to us and to those who are close to us.  Demanding the freedom of our compañeros and compañeras; forging ourselves as social fighters, future revolutionaries; recovering ourselves as persons, as children, as compañeros, as fathers, as mothers and finally as free and full citizens.

Today, we are still waiting… Where are our compañeros and compañeras who were captured and disappeared? Where is the slightest meaning of humanity in this political society that has denied accepting the need to know the truth related to those who we survived and the truth of those who are no longer here?

Why did they incarcerate us and torture us? Who did it? Where are those who tortured us and those who concealed them?  There are many questions to which the State, neither the government nor the system have given the most basic answers.

Show us … not just a clandestine jail or a torture dump or a torture bed, or the place were they buried our sisters and brothers… Also show us the deserved respect of their memory, give them back to us and show society their true face.

Show shame and repentance and let us to know your motives. It is not enough that you tell us that “orders are not to be discussed!”, that it was “because of military honour!” that they ordered and drugged you and that if you hadn’t killed or tortured us they were going to kill you! Do not give us the story that you already begged God to forgive you! That it is because we were suspected of being communists! That the blame belongs to a neighbour who pointed a finger at us, that you had to torture us because we did not want to collaborate, and that you do not know why.

During the difficult times of the civil war, COPPES was an oasis, an immense oasis, a space to grow as men and women committed to justice and truth. Our torturers were wrong when they underestimated the capacity of our comrades, their compromise with history and their love for the people.

Today again we say thank you to the people who supported us throughout our lives, to recognize and exalt the sacrifice of our families at that crucial moment.  It Is our ethical imperative, our moral obligation as survivors to come and claim our lives, which  we then offered to the people and now we employ  to the cause of truth. Truth that we consider necessary to publicize in order to avoid its repetition.

In those hard moments we clung to our patriotic and democratic convictions to confront and accept death in those lairs of torture where they locked us.  Those convictions remained valid when later we returned to the social struggle, to fight in the front or in exile, imposed as continuity to prison; within a new context, as victims of the violation of our own and our families’ human rights.

Now, we return to demand the right to the truth! So it would be known and spread within society.

We return to demand the right to justice, so it will be exercised and enjoyed.

And we return to demand the right to repair, to ensure that nobody goes unpunished with impunity; so that our martyrs are vindicated and receive Christian burial.  Finally, to dignify us and dignify all the victims and the people that always accompanied and supported us.

Frequently, when history is made of the hardest moments in a country’s life, deliberately or unconsciously, there is a desire to delete the pain caused, in order to “Never live those moments again”.  We believe that to forget is to condemn our future generations to the possibility of living sometime in their future, what we already lived and the atrocities that our society lived through.  And no, that can not happen again, we cannot allow this to occur again.

We believe that to forget is to negate our history and the right that the present  generation has to know the truth of the historical past.  Only in this way can we prevent that this nefarious and genocidal episode from being repeated again.  In the same way, this also gives a little justice to the memory of all women and men who died or were disappeared by the military dictatorships and their armed forces, security corps and by their paramilitary apparatus such as the DEATH SQUADS.

In the previous centuries to the present, within El Salvador, hundreds of women and men have been massacred, killed, tortured and forgotten or condemned to silence.  We consider that this is reprehensible and unacceptable; hence we assume the commitment to respond to the clamor of our murdered, exiled, or tortured compañeros/as who survived to the civil war, to become the bells of warning to the new generations.

Freedom is not a gift.  Freedom is a legacy of generations of Salvadorans killed, disappeared, fallen in combat, tortured, and exiled.  It is an invaluable legacy that they bestow to you, the new generations of women and men, youth and children that have the right to know and demand the truth.

You must know this truth so you will not erect monuments to the killers; so the martyrs and heroes and heroines will not be condemned to silence; so that the survivors and their families have the opportunity to seek justice and exert the right to claim their kin.

The ex political prisoners, survivors of torture summon our compañeros y compañeras to contact us in order to contribute to the task to which we are called.  To those who  live in exile, to claim their condition as citizens that demand to know the truth, to the youth and adults of the present to become interested in knowing about the life of the political prisoners, and the truth of the atrocities suffered by all the victims of human rights violations in El Salvador.

There is no trial that will give us back what they took from us; we cannot talk about peace if there are still families looking for their disappeared sons and daughters, compensation for the victims of capture, torture and forced disappearance must find the path of truth… only then would it be possible to talk about pardon but never oblivion.

So that the human rights violators, the criminals and their acts are known and juridically and socially judged;

So that the death and disappeared may be claimed;

So that our mothers, fathers, brothers, sons and daughters rest in peace wherever they lie or live;

Despite the damage and pain caused by the torturers and assassins, we continue fighting for our dignity and the vindication of our rights.

We call our comrades to contact us to this email and participate in this effort to claim our truth, the women and men that….

Made the prison a…trench of the Revolution!

San Salvador, July 2009



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