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U.S. Rep. McGovern Joins Human Rights Delegation in El Salvador

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SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR, January 27, 2017 | comments
This week U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) joined an international human rights delegation in El Salvador for the forum entitled “Forced Disappearance During the Salvadoran Armed Conflict: The Search, Truth and Reconciliation” at the University of Central America José Simeon Cañas. McGovern, along with Salvadoran and international human rights experts, will hear personal testimonies – including from US citizens – of the children, parents and siblings of some of the thousands who disappeared during the Salvadoran civil war.

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in Congress on human rights and in August 2016, McGovern led a group of 26 House lawmakers in a letter calling on President Obama to declassify U.S. military and intelligence records and reports that have not been previously released that relate to unresolved cases of disappearances and human rights abuses during the period of the civil war in El Salvador. Among those attending the forum are the Mauricio Aquino Foundation, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), and family members of the disappeared during the war.

Congressman McGovern Statement on Forum in El Salvador:

“Today I am proud to be in El Salvador as we continue the work for social justice and advancing democratic values. This forum is about truth and reconciliation for the many families whose loved ones were taken and killed during the El Salvador civil war. I am grateful to all the organizations who have helped to shine a spotlight on the disappeared. We are here to listen to these families – and to share what we hear with our colleagues in the U.S. Congress and the American public.”

“Last week, El Salvador celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Accords – a very important milestone in El Salvador’s history – and reason for celebration, reflection and recommitment. But as we all know, peace does not come with the signing of accords. The work of building peace, of creating peace, of strengthening democratic institutions, of promoting reconciliation, truth and justice – all of that hard work begins the day after the peace accords are signed.

“My first trip to El Salvador was in 1983, and I spent a great deal of time here as a young aide to Congressman Joe Moakley, searching for the truth in the case of the murdered Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter.

“Much has been accomplished by the Salvadoran people in the past 25 years – but so very much is left to do. Among the work left unfinished is an accounting for the disappeared.

“I and many of my colleagues in the U.S. Congress were so moved when we were approached last year by American citizens who are the sons and daughters of Salvadorans who disappeared during the war and were asked to help them in their quest to find out the truth about what happened to their parents. We promised them that we would help.

“At the end of last March, we hosted a briefing for Members of Congress and staff with a group of Salvadorans and Salvadoran-Americans whose relatives were forcibly disappeared during the civil war. In August, Members of Congress wrote to President Obama to release all remaining documents that US agencies have kept classified on the Salvadoran civil war.

“We also wrote to President Sánchez Cerén encouraging him to support a national commission to investigate and resolve the fate of the disappeared. Today, the delegation met with President Sánchez Cerén. It was a frank, cordial and productive meeting.

“Most U.S. documents were declassified and released during the presidency of Bill Clinton, and have long been available to human rights researchers. But some documents still remain classified, mainly those of U.S. intelligence agencies. There’s still more that could be released, and please know that I and many of my congressional colleagues will continue to press for further declassification.

“It is early days for the presidency of Donald Trump. I do not know whether President Trump and his Administration will recognize the pain and suffering of the Salvadoran people and be willing to help in whatever way possible so that you might find answers about your missing loved ones. Certainly, his first actions on immigration are not encouraging, although they were not surprising either.

“But one thing that I can promise you is that I will ask President Trump and others to help account for the disappeared – to open up the remaining U.S. records and to provide support to a national commission. But ultimately, the answers can only be found here in El Salvador, if there is the political will to do so.

“I know that even today many people continue to disappear as part of the violence ripping apart El Salvador’s communities and families. We must confront and resolve the issue of yesterday’s disappeared.”

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