I know, I know…

6 January 2011

I missed yesterday. I feel like a truant.
But I have a good excuse (no, Bruno, my chihuahua, didn’t eat it).
The Day Job is torquing up in anticipation of next week’s board meeting. Plus people are waking up from the break and cranking up their email factories. Help me, Cassius, or I sink!
Also, my publisher sent the latest draft of The Handbook for my last shot at edits. I’m about one fifth of the way through, and, I have to say, I still really like it. I know, I’m biased. But I’m also my own worst critic.
Not to short change you, some have asked about how the El Salvador story ended, whether the perps got punished etc. It took five years of an FBI investigation and relentless pressure from the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Embassy, but the two trigger men were eventually apprehended and imprisoned, although they were released under an amnesty law less than two years later. Captain Eduardo Avila was imprisoned three years later and released in December of 2005. Lopeze Sibrian died his hair red for his court appearance and it was enough to fool the witnesses and judge — along with a healthy bribe, of course.
I spent just a year, in El Salvador, 1983, but it was the fullest – and most dangerous — year of my life. I was determined to avenge my boss’ death by doing something I knew his murderers would hate more than anything: making the land reform a success. One of the biggest challenges I faced was that, while the Carter Embassy had supported our work on the land reform unequivocally, believing (correctly, in my view) that by enfranchising millions of poor people it would build popular support for the struggling Revolutionary Junta overnight, enabling them to defeat the communist guerrillas, the new Ambassador, recently appointed by Ronald Reagan, was less sympathetic. I was in El Salvador the night Reagan got elected, and you would have thought the guerrillas had been defeated, or that the Cold War has ended and we won. Everyone who had a weapon – and that was, well, everyone – stood outside in the streets, firing into the air in jubilation. It literally rained bullets all over San Salvador.
The right wingers believed Reagan would reverse all the stupid Human Rights initiatives of the Carter administration – which they believed had led to the fall of Somoza and the victory of the leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua – and give them free reign to fight the war their way: by killing all the members of the “popular organizations”. The right wing defined a popular organization as a church, a school, a cooperative, or a union. They were all communists, or, at best, potential communists.
They weren’t far wrong about the attitude of the Reagan Embassy. I had, at best, a love-hate relationship with our Ambassador, Dean Hinton. We played tennis together, and he was cordial to me whenever a Congressional Delegation was in town and wanted to see how the land reform program was doing, but most of the time he thought we were misguided “amateurs”. I was tempted to tell him that it was because the professional diplomats in the State Department had got it wrong for five decades that we “amateurs” had to come in and save the situation.
I have a million other war stories from this period of my life – and, yes, they did result in a book; more on that later – but I need to relate one incident that I consider an important part of my legacy in that poor, tortured country.
But let’s leave that for next time.

Rupert Scofield


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