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Death Squad Threatens ‘Political Traitors’ in El Salvador

October 23, 1992

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ A rightist death squad threatened Friday to kill former leftist guerrilla leaders, U.N. officials, journalists and other ″traitors.″

The threat, from a group believed responsibile for some of the thousands of political murders during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, menaced a fragile January peace accord between the guerrillas and President Alfredo Cristiani’s conservative government.

In leaflets distributed to news media, the Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez death squad said its members will start ″executing″ dozens of people involved in the peace process as of Nov. 1.

It attacked the peace agreements for redistributing land, purging El Salvador’s ″glorious armed forces″ of officers involved in civil rights violations and eliminating a number of police forces.

Under the accords, a new National Police Force is being created, made up of trained professionals and including former guerrillas.

The former security agencies that are being dissolved, including the National Guard and the Treasury Police, were believed to have spawned some of the death squads or to have contributed gunmen to them.

Teams of forensic experts have been recently digging up remains of more than 1,000 people in the village of El Mozote who were executed by government soldiers during an anti-guerrilla sweep some years back.

The U.S.-trained Atlacatl battalion was blamed for the massacre. It is one of several counterinsurgency units also being dismantled under the peace agreement.

The Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez group takes its name from a dictator who in 1932 crushed a leftist uprising, killing about 10,000 people.

Gen. Mauricio Vargas, the armed forces deputy chief of staff, warned in a television broadcast that the military will crack down on the death squads if necessary.

″We will not hesitate for a moment in applying the law to those who violate it,″ Vargas said, referring to the threats. ″This kind of thing is not allowed in our society and we will not permit any Salvadoran to do it.″

Friday’s death squad hit list included the leaders of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, U.N. officials responsible for supervising the peace accords, leftist politicians, and Salvadoran and foreign journalists.

Rebels in their stronghold on Guazapa Volcano north of the capital - many of whom have not disarmed yet - immediately went on alert. Ernesto Zelayandia, a front leader, appealed to Cristiani to neutralize the threat.

Five armed men dressed in civilian clothes tried to barge their way into the San Salvador home of Commander Rebeca Palacios, one of the guerrilla leaders, Ms. Palacios’ driver said.

A member of the household pushed out one of the intruders and closed the door, he said. Ms. Palacios was in Mexico.

S-10-23-92 1835EDT

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