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All Along The Watchtower:

A Memoir Of The 1970 Salvadoran Revolution


By Chris Oakley

Part 4



From the November 5th, 1972 broadcast of BBC’s 9 O’Clock News:

The fight for the Salvadoran presidential palace may be coming to an end. A Swiss radio correspondent has told the BBC that only a handful of government troops are left defending the palace and SCNL insurgent forces occupy most of the surrounding streets and buildings. Nothing has been heard from Salvadoran president Julio Adalberto Rivera or his remaining cabinet for over twelve hours....


From Ocho de Mayo:

Of all the engagements fought during the Salvadoran Revolution, the battle for San Salvador may have been the bloodiest. It is estimated by the El Salvadoran defense ministry and the U.S. State Department that at least a fifth of the total casualties incurred in the Salvadoran civil war were suffered in the struggle for control of the capital city. The fight for the presidential palace is thought to have accounted for many of the losses on both the government and rebel sides.

For years it was thought that Salvadoran president Julio Rivera had been killed in the early phases of the final SCLN attack on the Salvadoran presidential palace. Not until the 1987 publication of the book Mi Salvadora("My El Salvador"), the autobiography of a former Salvadoran regular army officer who barely escaped with his life after the Rivera regime was overthrown, did the world finally learn that Rivera had in fact been one of the last men to fall on the government side....


From Firefights and Fruit Stands by Jim Rykers:

I was in Honduras when I got the word that the SCNL had broken into Rivera’s palace. It seemed like everybody and his cousin was glued to their radio-- or TV, if they were lucky enough to be able to afford one. I know that when I got to the US embassy in Tegucigalpa to have them process my visa for return to the United States, the Marine guard detail had a transistor radio set up at one of their sentry booths so that the MPs could keep up with what was happening.

Around 5:00 PM, I heard my interpreter-- who’d come with me when the last UPI staffers evacuated San Salvador --saying that the fighting was over and President Rivera was dead. At the time, I thought just like everybody else that he’d been killed early on and they were just now getting around to confirming his death. It wasn’t until Col. Marchado’s book came out in ’87 that I knew Rivera had actually been one of the last to go...


From the November 6th, 1972 broadcast of NBC’s Today Show:

After nearly two and a half years of bitter fighting and high casualties, the Rivera government in El Salvador has fallen to the rebel armies of the Salvadoran Committee for National Liberation(SCNL). An SCNL spokesman announced early this morning Eastern Daylight Time that the last remaining government troops inside the Salvadoran presidential palace have ceased fire and turned over their weapons to the insurgents...


From the evening edition of the Washington Post that same day:




From the S-Sn volume of the 2005 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia:

The SCNL’s victory in the Salvadoran Revolution sparked fear among conservative governments elsewhere in Latin America. After the SCNL seized power in El Salvador, these governments became convinced that their own countries would soon become targets for left-wing insurrections; in fact, less than a year after the Salvadoran revolution ended a leftist uprising broke out in Nicaragua....


From Wikipedia’s entry on the 1970-72 Salvadoran Revolution:

On November 12th, 1972 the SCNL reorganized itself as the National Executive Committee and began restructuring the Salvadoran government to fit the agenda it had outlined for El Salvador in the early days of the revolution. One of its first official acts was to issue a decree requiring all surviving soldiers from the old Salvadoran regular army to take a pledge of loyalty to the new government; most of these men complied with the directive, but a substantial number-- mainly officers from the upper classes --rejected the new government’s demand and fled across the border to Guatemala to await the opportunity to start a counter-revolution against the new government...


From the December 3rd, 1972 New York Times, page A3:



White House criticizes NEC edict


From the December 15th, 1972 broadcast of The CBS Evening News:

Jose Napoleon Duarte, a former mayor of San Salvador who fled to Guatemala when the Rivera government in El Salvador collapsed nearly a month ago, has been elected chairman of the Salvadoran National Restoration Party, an organization of Salvadoran exiles whose stated goal is to retake control of El Salvador’s government from the left-wing National Executive Committee. Duarte, a longtime outspoken critic of the NEC, was recently declared persona non grata by the NEC regime...


From the March 8th, 1973 Washington Post, front page:




From Ocho de Mayo:

The post-civil war Salvadoran government sought to extend its influence beyond its borders by backing socialist movements in other Central American countries. This brought El Salvador dangerously close to another war with Honduras in the mid-‘70s and led to a break in diplomatic relations with Nicaragua after the start of that country’s Marxist revolution in September of 1973...


From the September 14th, 1973 broadcast of BBC’s 9 O’Clock News:

Little more than ten months after the Rivera government in El Salvador fell, another conservative administration in Central American finds itself under attack. The Sandinista National Liberation Army, a radical leftist organization which since 1961 has sought to bring Nicaragua under Marxist rule, issued a statement today declaring what it called "a people’s war" against the Somoza government that has been in power in Managua since 1967...


From the book Mi Salvadora(My El Salvador) by former Salvadoran army colonel Julio Cristobal Marchado, English translation copyright 1988 by Alfred A Knopf & Sons:

The years of exile were very hard ones for me. I watched from a distance as the corrupt thugs who ran the National Executive Committee plunged my country into a senseless involvement in the rebellion in Nicaragua and took away everything the Salvadoran people held dear; there were times when I was racked with despair that I might never be able to go home again...


From a June 1977 Newsweek article on the Carter Administration’s foreign policy in Central America:

Despite President Carter’s best diplomatic efforts the guerrilla war in Nicaragua, which in September will mark its fourth anniversary, continues to elude a negotiated solution and U.S. relations with El Salvador are still as strained as they were on the day Carter first took office. One anonymous State Department veteran, a former embassy staffer in El Salvador during the days of the Salvadoran Revolution, pessimistically suggests that under NEC rule the country will-- if it hasn’t done so already --gradually turn into a second Cuba, with the current NEC chairman and Salvadoran president Nicola Mendes as its Castro...


From the November 28th, 1977 London Times:




From the January 16th, 1978 Houston Post:



From the June 4th, 1978 broadcast of NBC Nightly News:

UN mediators are meeting with Salvadoran and Honduran diplomats in Costa Rica tonight in a frantic effort to keep El Salvador and Honduras from going to war with one another for the second time in just nine years. The main issue in the round-the- clock negotiations: the Honduran government’s persistent accusations that the NEC regime in El Salvador is aiding radical Marxist factions in Honduras...


To Be Continued


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