El Salvadoran president officially apologizes for 1981 massacre

El Mozote, El Salvador, January 19 (ENInews)--On the 20th anniversary of the end
of the El Salvador civil war, President Mauricio Funes issued an emotional
public apology for an infamous 1981 massacre of civilians by army troops.

Speaking 16 January in El Mozote, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the
capital of San Salvador, Funes said, "For this massacre, for the abhorrent
violations of human rights and the abuses perpetrated in the name of the
Salvadoran state, I ask forgiveness of the families of the victims."

Soldiers from the now-disbanded Atlacatl battalion entered El Mozote 11 December
1981 looking for left-wing rebels and sympathizers. In two days, they
slaughtered nearly 1,000 men, women and children. Bodies were tossed inside a
church which was set on fire. It was the bloodiest single episode of El
Salvador's 12-year civil war that left some 75,000 dead. Twelve thousand more
disappeared during the conflict.

"I ask forgiveness of the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and
sisters of those who still today do not know the whereabouts of their loved
ones. I ask forgiveness from the people of El Salvador, who suffered an
atrocious and unacceptable violence," Funes said in a speech in front of
thousands of farmers at the massacre site, the Associated Press reported.

Under its program Communication for Peace, the Toronto-based World Association
for Christian Communication (WACC) has supported several film documentary
projects and workshops in El Salvador in the past few years to gain public
acceptance of the need to come to terms with the country's violent past,
according to a recent news release.

One of the documentaries, "Colima," focused on a mother whose daughter
disappeared during the civil war and on the family's search for truth. The 2008
film was screened in cinemas throughout El Salvador and at festivals abroad and
"facilitated the beginning of a judicial process of exhumation of the victims,
their identification and the return of the bodies to their families," according
to the WACC news release.

However, Msgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the assistant bishop of San Salvador,
observed "there is still a lot to do," even with the peace accords. "We have a
lot of ground to make up in human rights," Chavez told the AP, "as there is in
the economic situation of the poor, the poorest part of the population continues
to be the poorest."