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El Mozote, the 1981 Massacre That Today Splashes Bukele

Bukelism orders the dismissal of a third of the judges in El Salvador, among whom is the judge in the El Mozote case .

Flowers and souvenirs of the Mozote families

The president retired what would be a third of all 690 judges in the country after they have completed more than 60 years of age or 30 years in office. Photo: Ernesto Zelaya

LatiAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: El Mozote, la masacre de 1981 que hoy salpica a Bukele

This week, the popular president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, returned to the front pages of the national and international press. The president retired what would be a third of all 690 judges in the country after they have completed more than 60 years of age or 30 years in office.

The National Assembly controlled by Bukele approved this law arguing "no more corrupt judges and justice tailored to power groups," said the president of Parliament, Ernesto Castro.

The obvious fear of the international community and of critics is that this measure further undermines the division of powers. In a country in which the president has 87% popularity, the majority of the National Assembly, various control and investigation bodies (such as the Prosecutor's Office), will now have greater power in the judicial branch.

Within the approved reform, it is also established that the Full Court is in charge of appointing the new judges. However, today, these are the same magistrates who were chosen by the ruling party.

Also read: Why is Nayib Bukele so popular?

El juez del proceso penal por la masacre de El Mozote, Jorge Guzmán, tiene más de 60 años. La reforma aprobada en la AL lo cesa del cargo. Guzmán pidió a la FGR que determinara si se cometió algún delito con el bloqueo a las inspecciones de los arch de la FFAA en 2020.

— Hugo Sánchez (@hugogonzalez86) September 1, 2021

In addition to the repeated criticisms of the possibility of weakening the already battered democracy and division of powers in the Central American country, it is added that within the group there is a judge with a difficult past with Bukele. Among those dismissed is Jorge Guzmán, the judge who led the El Mozote trial, a tragic massacre that occurred in 1981 (during the civil war), but which to this day remains unsolved.

The case of El Mozote

Between December 10 and 13, 1981, members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces murdered 986 people in the town of El Mozote. According to the data collected at that time, the soldiers alleged that this community was collaborating with the socialist guerrillas. Among the almost a thousand murdered, 558 minors were registered.

This tragic event is known as the largest massacre carried out on Salvadoran soil and today the responsibilities for what happened are still being investigated.

However, in 1993, with the General Amnesty Law for the Consolidation of Peace, none of these events was investigated at the time. But the IACHR concluded in 2010 that the Salvadoran State owes a historic debt to the memory of the victims, their families, survivors, and the community in general.

Despite the fact that this event occurred the same year that Nayib Bukele was born, the current president has been involved in allegations of obstruction of justice.

Jorge Guzmán, today dismissed along with the other judges, asked the investigating body in 2020 to determine if the current president committed a crime when he blocked the investigation of several military members.

This, after Bukele, appealed to national security not to allow the Guzmán court to search the military files for evidence related to the massacre. The president described this as a "media show."