El Salvador:  Dance of the Death Squads 1980 1992.

El Salvador: Dance of the Death Squads 1980 1992.

A J Venter.
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1.5 Mushroom Heads
It is more than 25 years since the end of the Cold War. It began over 75 years ago, in 1944 – long before the last shots of the Second World War had echoed across the wastelands of Eastern Europe – with the brutal Greek Civil War. The battle lines are no longer drawn, but they linger on, unwittingly or not, in conflict zones such as Syria, Somalia and Ukraine. In an era of mass-produced AK-47s and ICBMs, one such flashpoint was El Salvador …

The twelve-year guerrilla war in El Salvador – the smallest country in Central America after Belize – was one of the most intense insurgencies fought in the Central and South American region since the end of the Second World War. Backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, the struggle was initiated on 15 October 1979 – largely from Nicaraguan soil – by the radical Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or ‘umbrella organization’ of five socialist and communist guerrilla groups.

Fearful of supporting an oppressive regime in San Salvador and media reports of ‘death squads’, this drew a quick but muted response from a United States headed by Jimmy Carter and a Democratic majority in Congress. However, once Ronald Reagan was elected into office, through various US intelligence bodies, the CIA especially, significant amounts of military hardware – including a variety of the same aircraft and helicopters originally deployed in Vietnam – were pumped into the country to counter Soviet efforts to support the rebels. The Salvadorian security forces were eventually molded into an effective counter-guerrilla force that was to force the rebels to the negotiating table.

A J Venter has been there, done that and got the tee shirt; he is also a correspondent for Soldier of Fortune magazine and is used to reporting from trouble spots. I have enjoyed his books on the wars in Africa .

That said this booklet, 148 pages, is not one of his best works. Apart from some glaring factual errors, such as stating that this uprising was a communist Moscow backed one when in fact fact it was a populist uprising supported by the Roman Catholic Church. The government death squads were responsible for some terrible massacres in the country including the rape and murder of American nuns doing social work. The Government was run by a number of rich bussiness men who also ran the Army .

This book lacked something and for ages I couldn't put my finger on it , its not one of A J s best efforts. I put it down once and forgot about it for two weeks something I have rarely done. After reviewing it again a light switched on, this book has absolutely no depth at all; it's as if it was a pitch or outline guide for a publisher to see if they would print it in larger form. Sorry to say but do your self a favour and look for better Histories of this diabolical civil war. I must register an interest of course, during the 80's when active as a local unionist and politician I went to a number of meetings held by the Salvidorian People showing films and giving us background on their struggle for some sort of democracy in this blood soaked state; because of this over the years I have also read books and watched documentaries on the subject, this book does not even give a clear description of Mr Venters stay in the country.

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