El Salvador

The civil war in El Salvador (1979-1992) was a conflict between the authoritarian military goverment, supported by the USA, and diverse communist guerrilla movements, mainly, Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The violence was marked by the use of militias, the notorious Death squads, a hight number of ‘disappeared’ people, child solider recruitment, and terrorisation and targeting of civilians. In 1992, the UN brokered a peacement agreement between the combatents, formally ending the civil war.

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«We cross into the San Miguel district and a canoe takes us on a river trip for a couple of hours, passing completely unpopulated river banks covered by jungle. Finally, late in the afternoon we reach the guerrilla base in Montecillo.

Montecillo is an old coffee plantation in the middle of the jungle that was occupied by the guerrillas when the owner fled to the capital San Salvador in the beginning of the civil war. Two commanders and around 50 guerrilla soldiers live inside the abandoned and ruined coffee plantation. One of the commanders is born in the San Miguel district, the other one, Raul, is  born in Cost Rica, one of many foreign volunteers in the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional) guerrilla.

Many of the guerrilla soldiers are very young and several are girls. Eva is only 14 years old and her best friend Elisabeth one year older. The two young girls are recognised as this guerrilla units’ best snipers, both equipped with Russian made AK-47s, US made M-16s and advanced, ‘special made’ sniper rifles.

Raul, one of the commanders, tells me that Eva is a perfect sniper without any kind of nerves, ready to wait for the exact moment to pull the trigger, even if she has to wait for hours. Eva smiles, a bit embarrassed, when she understands that her commander is bragging about her qualities as a ‘long distance Murderer’. Eva does, however, admit with a smile that she has killed many government soldiers on incredible distances with her weapons.

The young girl’s background is a sad story; her family was killed by the government soldiers, or the so called ‘death squadrons’ and she spent her first nine years in a refugee camp in neighbouring Honduras. At the age of 12, she joined the guerrillas and soon showed her capacity in the art of killing. Alone or in a very small group, she has now spent two years killing government soldiers – from-a-distance – in road blocks, patrols, or in army vehicles on the main roads in the district»

Peter Strandberg | San Miguel, El Salvador | 1991