Florence Prison

THE HORRIFIC CRIES of "Matanza!" reverberated throughout Central America in the 1980ís. In Spanish, it means bloodshed, slaughter, massacre. In all the languages of humanity, it means to indiscriminately kill a large number of people, from the smallest children to the frailest elders. Central Americaís killing machines were owned and operated by the United States government.

IN MARCH, 1993, a United Nations Truth Commission report was released on what it called "some of the worst and most widespread violations of human rights in El Salvador", committed between 1980 and 1991. The Commission was able to investigate 25,000 of more than 75,000 deaths in this period, and concluded 85% were committed by the Salvadoran military- aided & abetted by its co-conspirator, the United States government. It was the U.S. which funded, trained, advised and supplied the agents of matanza.

A FEW OF THE SPECIFIC crimes cited by the Commission:

*Assasination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, during Mass, 1980

*Rape, torture, and murder of four American churchwomen, 1980

*Massacre of at least 794 civilians- the entire population of El Mazote,

Morazon Province- by the Fort Bragg trained & U.S. armed Atlactl

Battalion, 1981

*Murder of 6 Jesuit professors, their cook, and her daughter, 1989

THE U.S. PROVIDED $6 billion in military support to El Salvador during this period. This in a country no larger than the state of Massachusetts. The U.S. supplied the warplanes, including gunships, bombs, M16 rifles, machine guns, military "advisors" & political support. It provided subsidies for El Salvadorís ruling elites- for most of that period, for every tax dollar the U.S. awarded the regime, El Salvadorís ruling families deposited $1.20 abroad. The U.S. took the side of extreme violence and corruption in a conflict whose roots were in the bitter poverty and repression of the vast majority of Salvadoran people.

AND THEY ARE still digging up victims bodies in El Salvador.......

IN FEBURARY,1999, ANOTHER U.N. Truth Commission released a report on 30 years of "human rights violations"- in Guatemala. The report holds the Guatemalan military responsible for 93% of the killings and other atrocities they investigated: systematic murder, torture, rape, and the destruction of entire villages & cropland. This human rights indictment also documents "genocide" committed against the Mayan people. The report cites the U.S. government as a very willing and active partner in these crimes. The U.S. funded each successive Guatemalan regime and it military apparatus. The report also notes American corporations operating in Guatemala had a direct role in prolonging these atrocities. The United States provided direction and support, while arming and training Central Americaís worst human rights nightmare. The report underscores the fact the U.S. knew about the genocide, orchestrated it, and then lied about it to the American people and world community.

"ACCEPTABLE NORMS OF HUMAN CONDUCT DIDNíT APPLY" to the Central Intelligence Agencyís operations in Central America. It was the CIA that engineered the overthrow of Guatemalaís first democratically elected government in 1954, clearing the way for continued highly profitable exploitation of peasant workers by American corporations like United Fruit Co., now known as United Brands. In 1954, the CIA provided Guatemalaís military with a death list of opposition figures- the beginning of itís decades long involvement with death squad murders. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson provided the CIA and other support that unleashed the matanza, while Carter, Reagan, and Bush protected and covered for it. Were it not for recent Guatemalan events, Clinton would have continued the crime.

AND THEY ARE STILL exhuming bodies in Guatemala.

TEN YEARS BEFORE the U.N. report on El Salvador and 17 years before the report on Guatemala, the United Freedom Front (UFF) attempted to expose the criminal liability of the U.S. government and weapons manufacturers. Beginning in the early 80ís, UFF bombings targeted U.S. military facilities and corporations like General Electric and Honeywell whose armaments fueled the matanza. There were no injuries in the UFF actions because, unlike the U.S. government and itís client states, the UFF did not attack innocent civilians. UFF communiqués stated: "We take this action in solidarity with the people of Central America. U.S. OUT of El Salvador! Hands off Nicaragua!" They drew attention to "U.S. sponsored atrocities" including the El Mazote massacre and "death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala." The UFF urged the American people stand up and act to stop the "genocidal; regime in Guatemala" and the "CIA backed invasion of Nicaragua" (1)

The UFF did the right thing.....

CONVICTED IN FEDERAL COURT of a UFF "conspiracy" and bombings, Thomas Manning, Jaan Karl Laaman, Richard Williams and I were sentenced to a lifetime in prison. This "conspiracy" was actually part of a resistance movement exposing the Governments criminal policies and terror network in Central America. Itís overt acts intended to "stop the repression"- as Archbishop Oscar Romero pleaded shortly before a death squad cut him down. The UFF did the right thing, what needed doing, but according to government prosecutors, the UFF was on the wrong side. The UFF chose to side with the poor and the persecuted fighting for life. The UFF tried to stop the carnage....

IN 1992, PRESIDENT BUSH granted pardons to six perpetrators of Central American policy. (2) Those he enabled to avoid prison included a former head of covert CIA operations in Central America- another closely linked to the death squads-m a former Secretary of Defense- a former National Security Advisor- and that worm Eliot Abrams, Reaganís propaganda point man on Central America who denied the El Mazote massacre ever happened. Pardoned for their conspiratorial role in supplying weapons to CIA backed forces attacking Nicaragua and other offenses, Bush declared them to be "good and honorable men" and "true patriots". They were rewarded for their crimes.

GENERAL AMNESTIES WERE issued in El Salvador and Guatemala. The guilty never went to jail. America continues to get tough on crime by the poor while allowing some of Central Americaís criminal elite to live contentedly in its midst (e.g. Salvadoran military commanders implicated in the murders of the American nuns and other atrocities are provided sanctuary in Florida).

HAVING SECURED ITS economic domination of the region- and shifting itís attention to more profitable areas of the world for exploitable resources - the U.S. no longer provides billions of dollars in aid to crush opposition. The politicians so eager to fund death squads will not provide funding for recovery and life. Last years Hurricane Mitch devastated parts of these same countries, with the poorest of the poor in desperate need of help. Though not nearly enough, a proposed $400 million aid package- a pittance in the years of death and terror- has been bogged down since last year in the U.S. Congress. Congress refuses to provide this minimum disaster relief unless it also gets billions in additional funding for the Pentagon & weapons contractors.

THE UFF PRISONERS ARE AMONG 100 political prisoners in the U.S. Women and men who have dedicated their lives to resisting the worst predations of a system that desecrates life in itís quest for power and profit. Our release from captivity can only happen when a committed, determined active movement rises to the challenge. Only then will we return home. Will you join us in this struggle?

RLL, May, 1999.

(1)- all quotes in this paragraph are excerpts from UFF communiqués . Other UFF actions in the early 80ís included support for the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa

(2) as eloquently described in Rayís essay "Pardon My Analysis", among the essays on our website at

Ray Luc Levasseur, 10376-016, PO Box 150160, USP Atlanta, Atlanta, GA 30315