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El Salvador: We Can help Usher In A brand new Period Of Peace With Justice

The Honduran soldier on the checkpoint had a large rifle slung over his shoulder. He appeared to be no more than 16-years-outdated. Boys and young men with guns always scare me, much more so once i don’t know the language. My able driver, an American in his early 20s, deftly acquired us by means of and into the refugee camp. It was Might of 1982.

Men's Desgin The Fantastic Four Short Sleeve Tops TeesWe had been in Mesa Grande. Greater than 10,000 Salvadorans who had fled the violence of the civil conflict have been living there. I had brought two large suitcases crammed with medical supplies. Some medicines had been for the refugees, however the lion’s share was meant for the civilians living in regions served by the guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the group main the military wrestle against the fitting-wing oligarchy that controlled El Salvador.

I had introduced antibiotics, pain-killers, tranquilizers and anesthetics, as requested. The medicines have been given to younger males who slipped into Mesa Grande at night time and then vanished back into the darkness to make the long and dangerous journey to their respective managed areas in El Salvador. I was hoping that some of the medicines would reach a young American doctor, Charlie Clements, who had hiked into El Salvador to serve civilians in the guerrilla-controlled zone around the Guazapa Volcano.

The following morning I was awakened at 5 a.m. by the sound of what sounded like clapping. It was the laborious working Salvadoran women making the day’s tortillas. Everyone appeared to be up early and busy.

I spent the day seeing patients with an American physician who was doing her greatest to care for the Mesa Grande neighborhood with limited sources. I wasn’t used to practising medication with out good thing about a laboratory or x-rays, but a lot of the issues have been easy to diagnose. We handled patients with pneumonia, dysentery, arthritis, and complications. The following day I made my manner back to Tegucigalpa and from there to my house in Oakland.

I used to be a part of The Committee for Well being Rights in El Salvador, a bunch I had began together with other health activists from the San Francisco Bay area. Most of us had come of age during the struggle in Vietnam. That warfare had modified the best way I noticed the world. I had grown up pondering that we were the good guys. President Kennedy and his fairly spouse Jackie had remodeled the White Home right into a modern day Camelot, while Khrushchev appeared crude in his sick fitting go well with, banging his shoe on the table on the United Nations.

But Vietnam had modified all of that. We were advised that we had been destroying villages so as to save them. Our troopers massacred unarmed men, women and children at My Lai. Information of the Phoenix Program with its grisly demise toll had reached us. President Nixon expanded the struggle into Laos and Cambodia and then had the audacity to lie to the American individuals about it. I had spent a good deal of time throughout my school years protesting that war.

The state of affairs unfolding in Central America appeared frighteningly comparable. I used to be decided to do what I could to forestall another Vietnam tragedy. The Committee for Well being Rights in El Salvador was formed to see if those of us who have been health professionals could make a real difference. We wrote and spoke about the Salvadoran state of affairs from the health perspective and we raised cash for medicines to assist heal the wounds caused by weapons that had been bought with our own tax dollars.

At some point a younger lawyer from Salinas came to visit me in my Oakland residence. He asked me to support his good batgirl shirt cape friend Charlie Clements. The lawyer was Invoice Monning, now a California State Senator. Invoice was Charlie’s lifeline whereas Charlie, or Camilo, as he was referred to as in Guazapa, was delivering health care to the 1000’s of civilians who lived in the region. I gladly agreed to help in any method I could.

A year later, Charlie was my houseguest. He had simply left El Salvador. A call had been made that he might be of extra assist to the Salvadorans by coming dwelling, elevating a lot wanted funds for medical provides, and lobbying for an end to U.S. army assist to a rustic that was killing a thousand of its own each month.

Most of those killed have been civilians. Some were in unions. Others have been in agricultural cooperatives. The suitable wing oligarchy considered them as subversives as their organizing for higher wages and a dignified customary of living threatened to upset the established order. Others have been murdered because of their ties to the church after brave priests and nuns began empowering the poor by preaching liberation theology. Well being employees treating the poor had been additionally focused for assassination by death squads.

To place this death toll in perspective, multiply by 50. On the time of the battle the U.S. inhabitants was fifty instances that of El Salvador. Every month El Salvador was losing proportionally as a lot of its individuals because the U.S. had lost in your complete Vietnam Battle. At the height of this conflict the U.S. was sending $1 million on daily basis in army help to fund this carnage.

Charlie would become one in every of the most effective critics of U.S. Central American coverage. Today he’s the Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at the John F. Kennedy College of Government at Harvard College.

Charlie Clements, Guazapa region, El Salvador, Might 2014, photo courtesy of Vivien Feyer
By the tip of the 1980s, the focus of my political activism had shifted from El Salvador to different pressing concerns. Charlie and that i stored in contact. This may increasingly, he despatched me an e-mail, inviting me and my beloved companion, Vivien Feyer, to accompany him to the Salvadoran Presidential Inauguration, and to go to Guazapa with him. Two former FMLN army commanders, Salvador Sanchez Ceren and Oscar Ortiz, had narrowly defeated the correct wing Arena Occasion and would turn into El Salvador’s new President and Vice President. It was a as soon as in a lifetime opportunity, as Charlie had put it, and so off we went.

Our transport would take us to the small village of Palo Grande on the upper slopes of the Guazapa volcano, however first we stopped for lunch outdoors of Suchitoto. Our group consisted of Charlie, Vivien, our Salvadoran hosts, former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport, his spouse Kathryn Kasch, and me.

Kathryn Kasch, Dimas, Charlie Clements, Francisco Acosta and Gus Newport, Guazapa area, El Salvador, May 2014, photo courtesy of Vivien Feyer

Gus, like Charlie, is a hero to the Salvadorans. He had visited the guerrilla-controlled zone of Chalatenango throughout the peak of the conflict, risking his life. He had dedicated his metropolis, Berkeley, to a sister city relationship with the small town of San Antonio Los Ranchos. Berkeley was the first city to make such a gesture of solidarity and the first metropolis with a church declaring sanctuary to guard a Salvadoran household from deportation. Now seventy nine-years-outdated, and due for a knee replacement, Gus however made the journey to El Salvador.

former FMLN army commander Dimas, Guazpa area, El Salvador, May 2014, photo courtesy of Vivien Feyer

Dimas, a former FMLN military commander joined us for lunch. He is a handsome man, most likely in his mid-sixties, with a effectively- trimmed white moustache. He was sporting a inexperienced baseball cap with a Nike emblem on it. In Witness To Struggle, Charlie’s account of his year in Guazapa, he described Dimas as:

among the bravest and most popular of the guerrilla comandantes…a true
swashbuckler. He even seemed the a part of the romantic rebel, all the way down to the cowboy hat, black boots, and snow-white horse he rode all through the Front.

During his 12 months in Guazapa, Charlie and Dimas would share a particularly difficult experience, one neither of them would ever overlook. Not yet recovered from a extreme case of malaria, which had virtually killed him, Charlie was summoned to attempt to save the life of Julia, Dimas’ spouse, and her unborn child. Julia was severely anemic and suffering a tough labor sophisticated by placenta previa, an obstetrical emergency. She had been bleeding for a full day. She was desperately in need of blood, and there was none accessible. Charlie had an assistant draw two units of his own blood, which he knew to be safe to transfuse, and to present them to Julia. Then he operated hoping he would have the energy to face throughout the surgery.

The child was out in four minutes, but had no signs of life and could not be revived. Moments later, Julia went into cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated.

An hour after the double tragedy, Charlie, on his strategy to one more medical emergency, ran into Dimas on the trail. Charlie recounts this heart-wrenching assembly in Witness To Warfare:

As steadily as I may, I advised the comandante that he was a widower, that Julia and their infant daughter had died underneath my knife. Humbly, I stated I used to be very, very sorry…”You have to not let this tragedy defeat you,” was all he (Dimas) mentioned, however even then I could see tears welling in his eyes…I stood on the path for a couple of minutes, marveling at his stoicism. The man’s spouse and infant daughter had simply died on the operating table, and he was consoling their doctor!

Now, 32 years later, Dimas informed us that he had since remarried and that his new wife had given birth to a wholesome youngster. Charlie requested Dimas, who had learn Witness To Struggle in Spanish, if the e book was an accurate portrayal. Dimas responded that 70 percent was on goal, however that 30% was “flowers”, that means a bit sugar coated. I used to be stunned. The book chronicles a 12 months of extreme deprivation, chronic hardship, tragedy and brutality and yet Dimas felt that the truth was even worse than Charlie had portrayed it.

After lunch, whereas climbing the slope of the volcano so we might see Lake Suchitlan in the space, Charlie defined the brutal realities of the war. As we climbed, a campesino returning from his fields with machete in hand, encountered our group. He had been a combatant and remembered well the nice contributions of Camilo. It seemed that in all places we went within the Guazapa region, folks would have stories to inform of Charlie’s selfless deeds in doing all he may with few sources to improve the lot of these long suffering people. Clearly, he had a place of honor and respect of their hearts.

I had read some of these tales in Witness to Struggle, but assembly the folks and seeing the love they’d for Charlie up close and in individual took my breath away. Charlie’s courage is matched by his intelligence, humility and selflessness. I have personally worked with solely a handful of individuals who have inspired me as a lot.

The next day we traveled to Chalatenango, and met with the mayors and group activists of a number of towns. Now it was Gus Newport’s turn to be celebrated. Gus had come to Chalatenango when it was a free hearth zone and he was evacuated into a makeshift bomb shelter when U.S. made planes dropped U.S. made bombs on the Salvadoran civilians living there.

Gus Newport warmly greeted by the mayor of San Jose Las Flores, Chalatenango, El Salvador, May 2014, photo courtesy of Vivien Feyer

Gus is a big man and the Salvadorans are typically small. He was really too massive to fit into their small underground Darkseid bomb shelters. He wanted to be evacuated to the underground hole used for dumping rubbish. All of us laughed because the mayor of San Jose Las Flores recounted these events. Gus had toured Chalatenango on horseback at the time, and the poor mare he was riding died after carrying Gus up the steep mountain trails. Again we laughed, and in addition we cried as Gus told us, with tears in his eyes, his voice quivering with emotion, that he had feared he batgirl shirt cape would never see these brave Salvadorans alive once more.

Our delegation was organized by the Salvadoran Humanitarian Assist, Analysis, and Education Foundation (SHARE). Since its inception in 1981, SHARE has been working to promote economic sustainability, justice, and human rights in El Salvador.

Jose Artiga, SHARE’s Govt Director, defined SHARE’s concept of “accompaniment”:
As a corporation of international solidarity, SHARE recognizes that it isn’t our position to enter into communities, establish issues, and outline and finance solutions. As a substitute, it is the folks and communities residing the cycles of injustice and oppression that need to guide the lengthy-time period efforts for structural change. Our function is to help the empowerment of and stroll in solidarity with these communities, organizations and people. This known as mutual accompaniment.

Jose was miraculously able to get each of us on the delegation an invitation to the Presidential Inauguration. As we sat and listened to the brand new President’s inspiring speech, I began to marvel how individuals like me could make significant contributions now to assist usher in a brand new period of peace with justice in El Salvador.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren being sworn in as El Salvador’s new president, June 1, 2014, San Salvador, picture courtesy of Vivien Feyer

May we by some means participate, not in “fixing” the prevailing issues, but in accompanying the Salvadoran folks on their journey towards a peaceful and simply society

Perhaps we may help the campaign of the Mothers and Kin of the Disappeared to get August 30 officially designated because the day of remembrance for the tragic losses they had suffered. Maybe we could help those struggling to forestall the environmental devastation that accompanies steel mining. Perhaps we might help arrange and take part in future delegations to El Salvador so that our neighbors and pals within the U.S. could possibly be saved properly informed concerning the state of affairs. Maybe we could assist change U.S. policy so that our help wouldn’t be contingent on the Salvadorans needing to purchase agricultural seeds from Monsanto, however rather to make use of their very own indigenous seeds that nature had tailored to the Salvadoran local weather and soil. Maybe our position must be to petition the U.S. for reparations to be paid to those that suffered losses on account of our military support. Perhaps we may help in the plans the Salvadorans have to create a ladies’s management training institute to combat a tradition of machismo and encourage girls to run for workplace and to steer NGOs.