Mr. Castro You Are Involved in Death of Many Salvadorans
Salvadorans are one of the Latin America nations that are escaping its country for the United States. Cuban pro-democracy activist Bernardo Toar explains why El Salvador is in ruin.
At the 10th Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Panama in 2000, El Salvador’s President Mr. Francisco Flores spat out at the crumpled face of the bearded Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, unaccustomed to criticism: “Mr. Castro, it is utterly intolerable that you, having been involved in the death of so many Salvadorans and trained so many people to kill Salvadorans, dare to accuse the government of El Salvador of protecting […] criminal acts [of terrorism].”
Likewise, Mr. Flores expressed: “El Salvador saw the sad reality of being the scene of the last Cold War conflict in our continent. Russia, Cuba, and Nicaragua decided to get involved in the war in our country, just like the US.”
President Flores, sadly deceased at 56 years old earlier this year, was absolutely right. The Antillean tyrant should have better kept his mouth shut before accusing the representative of a country that suffered a bloody civil war from 1979 to 1992, in which Fidel Castro undoubtedly has a tremendous responsibility.
However, the origins of the Cuban despot’s intervention in El Salvador date back to long before the civil war. Since his arrival to power in January 1959, Fidel Castro had always regarded the Central American country as an appropriate place to extend its “liberating” influence, because of the high polarisation of the Salvadoran society.
Cuban documentation included instructions from the then Army Minister Raúl Castro to provide military training to Salvadoran citizens and facilitate the passage of Nicaraguan insurgents through their territory. From Havana, there was also an interest in reviving the border dispute between El Salvador and Guatemala, in addition to gathering as much information as possible about the most influential Salvadoran families.
At that meeting, it was also resolved that Cuba was the “lighthouse of all America” —as a Castroist hymn of that time expressed— subordinating to the Castro regime the entire Latin American revolutionary movement, which was to assume Marxism-Leninism as their doctrine. The Salvadoran insurgency was represented at the event by Schafik Handal.
From that moment on, Cuba would provide refuge, training and funding to most of the violent groups in America and the rest of the world, including the guerrillas in El Salvador and groups such as the Chilean MIR, the Palestinian PLO, and the Basque ETA. According to a report from the US Bureau of Intelligence of 1987, at least twenty-seven Latin American subversive groups maintained direct links with the Greatest Antille on that date.
Those groups received military training, applicable to urban and rural insurgency operations, in the so-called Punto Cero de Guanabo, near Havana, and in the town of Candelaria in western Cuba. The leaders of the Salvadoran guerrilla were also instructed in intelligence work.
“El Salvador saw the sad reality of being the scene of the last Cold War conflict in our continent. Russia, Cuba, and Nicaragua decided to get involved in the war in our country, just like the USA.”
A former Secretary General of the Communist Party of El Salvador by the name of Salvador Cayetano Carpio, a friend of Fidel Castro, was the person in charge of implementation of the Castroist urban guerrilla concept in his country. After leaving the party, Carpio created the Popular Forces of Liberation (FPL) in April 1970. The so-called “Salvadoran Ho Chi Minh” and his group, applying the knowledge acquired in Cuba, spread terror throughout El Salvador by kidnappings, murders, extortion and bank robberies.
The terrorist attacks perpetrated during that period of time included abduction and assassination of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mauricio Borgonovo in May 1977. His body was abandoned on the street by the killers. The murders of the Minister for Education Carlos Herrera Rebollo and the Swiss business attaché, Hugo Wey took place in 1979.
In March 1978, at the request of the Cuban government, the secret alliance was established in Havana between Palestinians, Nicaraguans, and Cubans. As a result of these agreements, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation accommodated the Salvadoran guerrillas in their bases in Lebanon for military training, with Salvadorans Schafik Handal and Salvador Cayetano Carpio becoming the links between Cubans and Palestinians.
In mid-1978, the Cuban secret services established the center of operations in Costa Rica to provide logistical support for the guerrillas from El Salvador and Nicaragua. This centre supplied the insurgent groups from both countries with weapons purchased in the USA through Panama. On March 25, 1981, five Costa Rican pilots publicly admitted their participation in the transportation of arms and food from Cuba to the Salvadoran guerrilla.
A plan to end the life of Salvadoran defence minister, General José Guillermo García, was also designed in Havana in the early 1980’s. This time the dirty work was commissioned to ETA terrorists trained by Cubans in Nicaragua. The plan failed, and the Basque separatists found refuge in Cuba.
of the Communist Party
of El Salvador
The plan required the participation of the Salvadoran guerrillas, bound to take power in their country, for which they were training in camps in Nicaragua and Cuba. The coordination and monitoring of the guerrilla activities were responsibilities of the official Fernando Comas Pérez, from Cuba’s America Department. Salvadoran insurgents were provided with weapons and other supplies from Havana, which had to resort to the black market to obtain them.
These weapons included the M16 assault rifles abandoned by the United States in Vietnam, which were delivered to Cuba via the USSR. Castro also ordered the Sandinist Army to deliver the FAL rifles they had previously received from Cuba to the Salvadorans, as well as M1 rifles, M60 machine guns, and light anti-tank rockets.
The Cuban regime exerted much pressure to secure unity amongst the different Salvadoran insurgent forces, with the aim of increasing their strength and effectiveness. To this end, Castro convened a meeting in September 1979 with three guerrilla groups: the Armed Forces of the National Resistance (FARN), the Popular Liberation Front (FPL) and the Communist Party of El Salvador. This meeting concluded with the commitment to create a coordination assembly controlled by the Cuban secret services.
Affected by internal bickering, this coordination assembly could only succeed thanks to the insistence of Fidel Castro. In December 1979, the bearded dictator summoned the most prominent guerrilla leaders to the Revolution Palace in Havana to seek an agreement amongst them. They had to join immediately otherwise there will be no Cuban aid. The rebels agreed, and Castro accepted a new group in the guerrilla holding: the Popular Revolutionary Front (FRP). As a result of these agreements, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) was born. The name chosen was a tribute to a Salvadoran Communist who had encouraged Stalinist purges in the USSR. Castro’s friend Carpio was appointed Commander-in-Chief.
The fearsome Cuba’s State Security Department provided logistical and operational assistance to this new front from its inception. Cuba facilitated contacts with countries from the Communist Block, as potential armament sources, and offered material support of all type, including the creation of a formidable apparatus of political propaganda in the United States and Western Europe. Likewise, the Cubans trained the guerrillas from El Salvador at the Nicaraguan airport of Punta Huete and recruited Palestinians, Chileans, and Argentines to fight in this Central American country.
Castro-sympathiser Sancho Castañeda became the new FARN’s leader, and the weaponry supplies were automatically restored from Cuba. As revealed by the former guerrilla captain Arquímedes Cañada, Jovel’s death was the work of the Cuban secret services. Captain Cañada also denounced that Castro’s involvement in this murder was not an isolated incident, since Havana was always pressing to eliminate anyone who tried to leave the fold.
Castro’s intrusion into the Salvadoran conflict was even deeper after 1981. The Cubans supervised in detail military operations, such as the destruction of the Dorado Bridge in October 1981 and the attack on the Ilopango airbase in January 1982. This latest terrorist act destroyed virtually the entire Salvadoran air force.
The so-called “final offensive”, which took place from late 1980 to the beginnings of 1981, was planned in Havana by the commanding officers of all Salvadoran fronts and approved by Cuba’s Special Operations Department. According to Captain Cañada, who led the attack on the Ilopango base, “Cubans were intensely involved and practically ruled over the five commanders of Farabundo Martí.”
In May, Mr. Cañada went to Havana to report to the Cuban authorities. Years later, he would express: “I was frustrated because I had to provide military and political reports to officers of the Cuban Special Operations Department, who gave me the main guidelines to be fulfilled in El Salvador.” According to Cañada, the personnel for the assault on the Ilopango airbase was imposed from Havana, after having received military training for six months in the Cuban capital city.
The guerrilla operations never stopped being controlled from Havana. Many of the documents seized from the FMLN by the counterinsurgency in 1980 are in fact operative reports to the Cuban intelligence chief Manuel Piñeiro. These reports revealed that the Cubans pushed Salvadoran insurgents into a “final offensive” in January 1981.
Salvadoran rebels did not lack the supply of military material from Cuba, either. Most of this material was transported by land from Nicaragua or by the sea route from the Gulf of Fonseca to Usulután.
By the end of 1980, Managua’s Sandino Airport was closed to civilian traffic for a few weeks so that Cuban aircraft packed with equipment bound for El Salvador could unload their cargo. It is estimated that 200 tons of weapons and other equipment were hauled from Havana to the Salvadoran guerrilla.
For their part, Cuban embassies facilitated and financed the displacement of Salvadoran guerrilla leaders around the world. Besides, Castro placed at the service of the Salvadoran rebels his hypertrophied worldwide propaganda apparatus to misinform the reality of the conflict in El Salvador.
In this strategy, Castro personally sought the involvement of more powerful subversive organisations, such as the PLO. Yasser Arafat himself admitted the presence of his fighters in the revolutionary militias of El Salvador. Through mediation from Havana, the Secretary General of the Salvadoran Communist Party, Schafik Handal travelled to Lebanon and Syria to seek Palestinian support for the training of Salvadorans in the Middle East.
However, this tremendous Cuban logistical support failed to overthrow the government of El Salvador, because of the low popular support that the rebels had. For this reason, the guerrilla leaders moved to Havana in February 1981 to study the situation. There, Castro ordered to carry out urban terrorism as much as possible, as well as actions aimed at destructing the national economy, including the massive mining of roads and highways.
In April 1981, Castro admitted to the representative of the Socialist International, Hans Jurgen Wischnewski, that he had supplied weapons to the Salvadoran insurrectionist. Likewise, at the conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held that same year in Havana, Castro accepted to have been providing support in armament to the insurgency of El Salvador.
At the beginning of 1982, Cuba’s supply of arms to the FMLN was significantly expanded, owing to the revolutionaries’ plans to boycott the elections to the Constituent Assembly in March that year. This boycott could not prevent 80% of the potential voters from appearing at the polls, thus showing their repudiation of terrorist violence.
As a result of the mass shipment of military equipment from Cuba, including sophisticated radio communication systems, by the middle of 1982, the rebels began to develop armed actions more typical of conventional war than guerrilla warfare. In December 1983, Farabundist forces who had received specialised training in Cuba attacked with fury the headquarters of the Fourth Brigade in El Paraíso, massacring the soldiers.
An FPL guerrilla officer who participated in this assault, Adín Inglés Alvarado, told the Salvadoran television that the attack scheme had been designed in Cuba. The Cubans had even built a replica of the barracks to train better the 28 men who took part in the battle. The command created under Cuban leadership was also supplied with weapons and explosives by the government of Havana.
“With the arrival of democracy in Cuba, this dark era of the Cold War will be truly over in all of America, as it fortunately ended for El Salvador.”
As a result, Castro pushed the Salvadoran guerrillas to negotiate with the government of their country in exchange for the United States dismantling the militias opposed to Sandinism in Nicaragua, the so-called Contra. This trade of the Salvadoran guerrillas for the Sandinist tranquillity was not to the liking of Salvadoran leaders like Carpio and Joaquín Villalobos.
Nevertheless, an FMLN commander, Melida Anaya Montes, alias Ana María, accepted the Cuban offer and travelled to Nicaragua to specify details. Carpio then ordered the death of Ana Maria, who was savagely murdered by way of 86 stabbings using an ice pick on April 6, 1983.
Six days later, Carpio was summoned to a meeting with the Cuban spymaster Manuel Piñeiro and Nicaragua’s Home Minister Tomás Borge. That same day, the Nicaraguan press announced the “suicide” of Fidel’s “friend” Salvador Cayetano Carpio, motivated by the “shame” of having required the assassination of Commander Ana Maria. Carpio’s body was stabbed in the back, with injuries necessarily deadly.
Following Castro’s guidelines for attacking the Salvadoran economy, the FMLN destroyed the Cuzcatlan Bridge on the Pan-American Highway in January 1984, which caused a severe economic crisis in the country. The Cuban participation in this and other terrorist acts was denounced by the former guerrilla leader Napoleón Romero when passing to the ranks of the government. Also, in April 1985, the rebel Nidia Díaz was seized of relevant documents that came to confirm the close coordination between the FMLN, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
In October that same year, the Front kidnapped Salvadoran president Jose Napoleón Duarte’s daughter. In return for her life, the Cubans demanded, through the Sandinists, the release of 104 wounded Salvadoran guerrillas. President Duarte gave in to blackmail and the prisoners were able to travel to Cuba, where Manuel Piñeiro himself welcomed them at the Havana Airport.
At the beginning of 1987, the Farabundists attacked the Fourth Brigade quarters again, causing many losses to the Army of El Salvador. President Duarte denounced Castro’s interventionism and provided evidence of the technical assistance the Cuban dictator had given to the revolutionaries to carry out such aggression.
On December 12, 1987, Roger Miranda, a deserter from the Sandinist ranks, denounced the Cuban plot to send the lethal Soviet anti-aircraft batteries SA7 to El Salvador, as well as the instruction that the Nicaraguan government was providing to several FMLN members in the use of this weaponry.
In 1987, Cuba promoted a broad international campaign in favour of Salvadoran insurgents. In January that year, Havana hosted a solidarity conference chaired by no other than Piñeiro, the sinister chief of the Cuban spies.
Also under Castro’s supervision, the so-called World Front of Solidarity with the Salvadoran People was to work with the objective of gaining international sympathy for the Salvadoran guerrilla. The organisation’s director was the American Communist Sandy Pollack, who had visited Cuba on numerous occasions since 1969 and had been the leader of the pro-Cuban Revolution movement in the USA.
According to documents captured by El Salvador’s Army, Cubans were behind the trip of Schafik Handal’s brother Farad to the United States in search of support for the guerrilla. Farad Handal met with the Cuban spy García Almeida, who operated under the cover of Cuba’s diplomatic service to the United Nations. Agent García advised Handal to seek credibility coverage by approaching US congresspeople.
The Cubans made contacts in Washington to facilitate the work of Farad Handal. Also under Cuban auspices, the Salvadoran emissary held meetings with representatives of the PLO to coordinate the arms supply and agree on details of future training.
Fortunately for the Salvadoran people, Castro’s scheme of domination over their territory was thwarted by the 1987 Esquipulas Peace Agreement for Central America and the 1990 UN Peace Plan. The civil war ended on January 16th, 1992.
As President Flores said at the 2000 Panama Summit, the war that his country had to endure was disastrous. It left 75,000 people dead, mostly civilians, which represented 2% of the Salvadoran population of those years. Tens of thousands were injured by firearms, explosions, anti-personnel mines and other ways, leaving many people disabled for life. Thousands of children lost their parents. The psychological sequels are incalculable for the country.
As for the material order, the damages were also substantial. Roads, bridges, communications networks and electricity supply were destroyed. Countless companies were closed, and a grave flight of capital took place. Consequently, the Salvadoran economy suffered from stagnation for more than a decade. The reconstruction of the country is not yet over.
Mr. Flores’s composure in facing the tyrant Castro is admirable, if we also take into account the severe consequences that the civil war has brought about for El Salvador in social matters. The vast arsenal that has remained in civilian hands led to the emergence of gangs called maras. These bands, dedicated to crime and drug trafficking, have made this Central American country one of the most violent in the world. No less tragic, the reintegration of former guerrillas into civilian life remains an unfinished task, and more than half a million Salvadorans have had to leave their land.
Although the country has achieved considerable progress in its democratic process, the war has left a bitter resentment in the Salvadoran society. To complete this process and find the peace that this brother country deserves, the Salvadoran authorities will do well to stay away from a regime that precipitated and encouraged the war on their soil and lives on today in Havana.
El Salvador has, by no means, been an isolated example of the expansionist zeal of the Caribbean Napoleon. Fidel Castro himself acknowledged during an economic seminar held in Havana in 1998: “The only place where we did not seek to promote the revolution was Mexico. In the rest [of Latin American countries], we did try it without exception.”
The Cuban tyrant tells lies about it, too. According to the Cuban-American intelligence analyst Marcelo Fernández Zayas, “Fidel has intervened in all Latin American countries, including Mexico. The latter, out of pride, did not want to admit it. I have tried to calculate what Cuba has spent on these endeavours, but it is impossible. The figure exceeds one billion dollars.”
The disappearance of the Soviet subsidy and the physical deterioration of the messianic madman of Fidel Castro have cooled the warmongering interventionism of the Cuban government. Nonetheless, Cuba persists in its efforts to extend its influence through the ballot box in countries where, unlike Cuba, democratic elections are possible. None of this has been to the benefit of the Cuban people, who have had to pay in their own flesh the ambition of the tyrant and his court with blood, misery and lack of freedom.
Symbolising the end of a stage, the bootlicker Manuel Piñeiro died in a strange traffic accident —very much Castro style — on some street in Havana, in 1998. However, despite what President Flores said, the Western hemisphere did not end the Cold War. With the arrival of democracy in Cuba, this dark era will be truly over in all of America, as it fortunately ended for El Salvador.
Perth Herald Tribune joined the campaign “My Weekly Denunciation Of the Castro’s Dictatorship”, launched by the UNPACU and the Forum for a United America to raise awareness of the situation of the Cuban people worldwide.