THE MASSACRE AT EL MOZOTE
A Parable of the Cold War
By Mark Danner
Illustrated. 304 pages.
Vintage Books/Random House. Paperback, $12.
Based in large part on his extensive account published in the December 6, 1993, issue of The New Yorker, National Magazine Award winner Danner’s engrossing study reconstructs events that took place some dozen years before. In December 1981, over 750 men, women and children were killed in El Mozote, El Salvador, and the surrounding hamlets. Although at the time it was covered on the front pages of both the New York Times and the Washington Post, the reports were not enough to derail Ronald Reagan’s push to prove that the El Salvadoran government was “making a concerted and significant effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights.” Why the government chose to ignore stories in the nation’s two leading newspapers is one part of Danner’s sad, well-researched book. The other is why El Mozote was attacked at all. Populated by evangelical Christians who, unlike Catholic neighbors fed on liberation theology, did not abet the rebel FMLN, the people of El Mozote believed they would be spared when the army decided to wipe out insurgents and their supporters. After several days of brutal rapes and murders, a handful of people managed to escape to the rebels, setting in motion press reports and the under-investigated, coyly couched American embassy reply that allowed the U.S. to continue its massive subsidies. Danner has disinterred an event that is an equal indictment of Salvadoran brutality and American blindness.
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