An immigrant from El Salvador who has been living “legally” in the United States since 1989, may soon be forced to return to that Central American nation.
Unlike hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans who are deported every year for working in the U.S. without papers, Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova was warmly welcomed when he arrived in Miami from El Salvador; in fact he was greeted like a king and quickly granted permanent residency.
Why? Vides Casanova was Minister of Defense in El Salvador and in command of the National Guard during that nation’s Civil War (1980-1992).
It may seem strange that Vides Casanova would get a hero’s welcome in the U. S. since during Civil War in El Salvador, tens of thousands of innocent people were tortured and killed by the military and government-backed death squads.
According to the New York Times, before Vides Casanova retired to the United States with a generous pension, he “was praised by American officials as a reformer struggling to root out human rights violators from his corps.”
In fact Vides Casanova “participated in or concealed torture and murder by his troops.”
In an important decision, the U. S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled March 11 that, among other crimes, Vides Casanova “covered up the role of National Guard troops under his command in the rape and murder of four American churchwomen in December 1980. Those killings,” the Times piece said, “as much as any others by the Salvadoran armed forces during the decade-long war, revealed the rampant violence of the military that Washington staunchly supported in its Cold War confrontation with leftist guerrillas.”
The United States provided over $7 billion in weapons and financial assistance to the dictatorship in El Salvador in the 1980s. It also provided military training for the Army, National Guard, and even to death squads organized through that nation’s Treasury Police.
Why did the United States support the dictatorship in El Salvador? They were but one legion of shock troops in a century-long effort by the U. S. military industrial complex to maintain control over all of Latin America and its people.
In the 1980s, the FMLN — a united front of progressive political groups — led the people of El Salvador against a military government that had ruled since The Matanza of 1932, a massacre of 32,000 peasants by General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez. General Martinez, one of El Salvador’s many dictators, murdered peasants in the tens of thousands in order to crush a planned revolt organized by Farabundo Martí, the Salvadorean revolutionary from whom the FMLN derived their name.
So when the people rose up as they did in El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala and throughout Latin America, the U. S. did what they have always done when the people try to take control of their own country and make changes there: They intervened.
In fact since the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, every time a nation south of the border has attempted to solve its own problems in a manner that did not meet the approval of major US banks and corporations, military advisers have been sent, arms appropriated, sanctions imposed, coup d’etats engineered, and troops dispatched. As a result, nothing much has changed in Latin America since 1825 — the date of the first US intervention there.
Seventy-five thousand people died during the Civil War in El Salvador; hundreds of thousands fled the violence and mayhem during the 1980s and beyond, most of them finding their way to the United States.
It’s a terrible irony that people forced by a deranged military dictatorship to flee their homeland should seek sanctuary in the nation that supported and supplied the regime that oppressed them. It is an even crueler twist of history that those refugees, and their children, would, upon their arrival in the U. S., and for decades to come, be viewed and treated as criminals.
By interfering directly in a war of liberation, one lead by the heroic FMLN, the U. S. prevented El Salvador from charting their own destiny. As a result, even after Peace Accords were signed in 1992, and democratic elections staged, that country is still to this day recovering from the damage wrought by that war, one that leveled forests, destroyed industries and infrastructure, damaged almost beyond repair the rule of law, and wounded the very psyche of the people. The brutal and devastating war also created ideal conditions for the introduction of a massive narcotics trade, well organized narco-criminal groups, and a state of lawlessness that continues to hold that nation, and much of Latin America, in its grip.