12/11/81: El Salvador’s Atlacatl Battalion begins a 6-day offensive sweep against guerrilla strongholds in Morazán.
—from the “Chronology of Events Related to Salvadoran Situation”
prepared periodically by the United States embassy in San Salvador
The department of Morazán, one of the country’s most embattled areas, was the scene of another armed forces operation in December, the fourth in Morazán during 1981….
The hamlet of Mozote was completely wiped out. For this reason, the several massacres which occurred in the same area at the same time are collectively known as the “Mozote massacre.” The apparent sole survivor from Mozote, Rufina Amaya, thirty-eight years old, escaped by hiding behind trees near the house where she and the other women had been imprisoned. She has testified that on Friday, December 11, troops arrived and began taking people from their homes at about 5:00 in the morning…. At noon, the men were blindfolded and killed in the town’s center. Among them was Amaya’s husband, who was nearly blind. In the early afternoon the young women were taken to the hills nearby, where they were raped, then killed and burned. The old women were taken next and shot…. From her hiding place, Amaya heard soldiers discuss choking the children to death; subsequently she heard the children calling for help, but no shots. Among the children murdered were three of Amaya’s, all under ten years of age….
It should be stressed that the villagers in the area had been warned of the impending military operation by the FMLN [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front] and some did leave. Those who chose to stay, such as the evangelical Protestants and others, considered themselves neutral in the conflict and friendly with the army. According to Rufina Amaya, “Because we knew the Army people, we felt safe.” Her husband, she said, had been on good terms with the local military and even had what she called “a military safe-conduct.”
Amaya and other survivors [of the nine hamlets in which the killing took place] accused the Atlacatl Battalion of a major role in the killing of civilians in the Mozote area.
—from the July 20, 1982, Supplement to the “Report on Human Rights
in El Salvador” prepared by Americas Watch Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union
At the time I was in El Salvador, six months after the events referred to as the Mozote massacre and a month or so before the Reagan administration certified to Congress that sufficient progress was being made in specified areas (“human rights,” and “land reform,” and “the initiation of a democratic political process,” phrases so remote in situ as to render them hallucinatory), a major offensive was taking place in Morazán, up in the mean hill country between the garrison town of San Francisco Gotera and the Honduran border. This June fighting was referred to by both sides as the heaviest of the war to date, but actual information, on this as on all subjects in …