Why it matters
El Mozote and surrounding areas was the site of the largest massacre in contemporary history of the Americas. This is the first time crimes against humanity have been brought to trial in El Salvador. The evidence is damning. Nearly one thousand unarmed civilians, including more than 500 children, were killed in El Mozote and surrounding areas in 1981 by the Salvadoran armed forces who were trained and supported by the US. With the trial proceedings nearing its final stages, the attacks against those who have held the perpetrators accountable have increased. It’s time to deal the final blow to impunity and end the 40 year wait for justice.
We have already come a long way. The truth has had its day in court. The victims and the surviving families no longer have to carry the burden of proving their lived experience was real and continues to impact them. The legal proceedings have produced 38 thousand pages in five years and testimonies from more than 50 witnesses and experts. The chance to tell the story in a court of law, to present the facts, hear declarations of experts and the reams of evidence is an enormous step towards justice. For years, the perpetrators and their allies– including some in the United States– maintained that there was no massacre. That lie has been systematically dismantled and the truth has put the perpetrators in a very different position.
These advances have brought a shift in public opinion. This fight for justice has put an end to the long held belief that the past should be left in the past. Today, a growing number of people are recognizing the importance of holding the perpetrators accountable. With this rejection of impunity, the perpetrators and their allies have had to use other tactics to try to escape justice. From the beginning the pressure to dismiss or undermine the case has been noticeable, but the more progress was made the more serious the attacks became.
Judge Guzmán, who presided over the case since the beginning, has been arbitrarily removed. As the case moved forward in 2021 and possibility of legal justice became more real, a reform to a law regulating judicial careers in September once again setback the progress. This reform summarily dismissed judges over 60 years old, generating instability in countless judicial proceedings. Under this reform Judge Guzmán was removed from office and the El Mozote proceedings.
Cristosal as part of the legal team representing the victims has also come under attack. The president has called out our organization and the legal representatives by name, misrepresenting our role and motives. Our commitment remains unaltered. As victims and the legal regroup and strategize once again how to move forward, your solidarity and support are absolutely critical. We will continue to walk the road to justice, 40 years is too long!
Forty years is too long to wait for justice
During this long road to justice, many of the survivors have passed away. Some never saw a glimpse of what justice would mean, but others lived in hope that justice would come. In the last 20 years, at least 74 people have died, including María Victoriana, María Fernanda and César Martínez. It is our dream that justice will come before we lose another living testament to what it means to persist, resist and overcome incredible loss.