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Twenty years after Jesuits’ massacre, future more hopeful for El Salvador
By Randy Jurado Ertll, November 15, 2009

We cannot afford to forget the brutal murders that occurred in El Salvador 20 years ago.

On Nov. 16, 1989, the Salvadoran military carried out a savage and cowardly murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. Some of the soldiers in the Atlacatl Battalion, which did the deed, had been trained at Fort Benning, Ga.

Here’s the background: The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) had undertaken a massive offensive to defeat the Salvadoran military, which was heavily funded by the United States.

The military was obsessed that the guerrillas would gain more popular support within the capital of San Salvador. So it decided to slay these leading priests, and by so doing, instill terror among the Salvadoran population. The message was clear: Don’t support the FMLN — or else.

These six Jesuits were superb researchers and writers. They had denounced social injustice in El Salvador, speaking out against huge social disparities and the lack of educational and job opportunities.

Their religious collars did not protect them.

In 1992, the civil war official ended, and the FMLN became an official political party.

Fast forward to today. In March, the FMLN won the presidency of El Salvador. President Mauricio Funes vowed to make sweeping changes to help reduce socioeconomic disparities.

Salvadorans expect him to deliver.

If he does, the priests may not have died in vain.

Randy Jurado Ertll is the author of the recently published memoir “Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran American Experience” (Hamilton Books). His website is

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