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All Along The Watchtower:

A Memoir Of The 1970 Salvadoran Revolution


By Chris Oakley

Part 5



From the June 10th, 1978 Washington Post:




No Word Yet If Agreement Reached On Curtailing Alleged

Marxist Incursions Into Honduran Territory


From Firefights and Fruit Stands by Jim Rykers:


I was covering the Hong Kong Stock Exchange when they asked me if I wanted to cover the Honduras summit. At first I was tempted to say no because the Salvadoran civil war had just about put me through the wringer, but curiosity got the better of me and within a week I was in Costa Rica...


From the June 13th, 1978 broadcast of CBC News at Six:


Talks between Salvadoran and Honduran negotiators resumed this afternoon in Costa Rica, and there are hopeful signs tonight that an accord may be reached on the issue of alleged Marxist infiltration from El Salvador into Honduras...


From the June 17th, 1978 New York Times:





Salvadoran Government To Take Immediate Action To Restrict

Honduran Guerrillas’ Movements Across The Border


From the August 8th, 1978 broadcast of BBC’s 9 O’Clock News:


The Salvadoran-backed guerrilla movement in Nicaragua has been dealt a major setback tonight, according to official spokesmen for the Nicaraguan defence ministry. The spokesmen claimed that two battalions of regular Nicaraguan army infantry troops have captured a key Sandinista munitions dump south of the coastal town of Puerto Cabezas...


From the October 10th, 1978 New York Post:




Republicans urge White House to confront El Salvador

about its aid to Nicaraguan Marxist guerrillas


From the February 21st, 1979 broadcast of BBC’s 9 O’Clock News:


The Salvadoran National Restoration Party has announced that it will hold a rally tomorrow in Guatemala City to protest alleged human rights violations by the leftist NEC regime that has been ruling El Salvador since 1972. The current leader of the NEC, Salvadoran president Nicola Mendes, has been frequently accused in the past of harshly repressing criticism of El Salvador’s government...


From the front page of the March 4th, 1979 edition of the Mexican newspaper El Universal:





From the March 18th, 1979 Manchester Guardian:


No. 2 Sandinista Leader Defects, Citing Disillusionment With Rebel Cause


From the June 21st, 1979 Washington Post:





From the November 14th, 1979 broadcast of The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite:


For the second time in less than a decade El Salvador appears to be plunging into civil war. A Reuters dispatch from San Salvador filed late this afternoon reports that dissident Salvadoran army soldiers and their officers have attacked the headquarters of the Salvadoran interior ministry...


From the November 15th, 1979 New York Times:





From the January 16th, 1980 broadcast of NBC Nightly News:


The Salvadoran-backed Marxist guerrilla rebellion in Nicaragua faces the possibility of collapse before the end of the year as the Mendes regime in El Salvador turns inward to confront an uprising on its own doorstep...


From the February 4th, 1980 Boston Herald:


El Salvador Expected To Be Major Factor In NH Primary, Iowa Caucus


From a report by the Soviet embassy in San Salvador to Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko dated June 26th, 1980:


The situation in this country is noticeably deteriorating; the counterrevolutionary bandits seeking to overthrow Comrade President Mendes are gaining support among the younger segments of the population and there are disturbing rumors that two People’s Army officers have defected to the counterrevolutionary side...


From the September 7th, 1980 Los Angeles Times:





Regular Army Said To Be Overrunning Last Surviving Rebel Outpost;

Ortega Seeking Political Asylum In Cuba


From the book Red Sunset: The Fall Of El Salvador’s Mendes Regime, copyright 1998 by Wake Forest University Press:


By the time Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States in 1981, the NEC government found itself in dire straits. Its Sandinista allies’ effort to seize power in Nicaragua had ended in failure and its own struggle with the Salvadoran National Restoration Party was starting to take a sharp turn for the worse; even as Reagan was giving his inaugural address two Salvadoran People’s Army officers had been court-martialed and executed by firing squad for attempting to defect to the SNRP forces and a vital SPA supply base near Ciudad Barrios was under siege from SNRP troops...


From the April 16th, 1981 broadcast of 10 News(Australia):


The Salvadoran rebel armies led by Jose Napoleon Duarte are claiming a significant victory tonight in their 18-month-old campaign to overthrow the leftist government of Salvadoran president Nicola Mendes. A press release issued by the Salvadoran National Restoration Party headquarters in Guatemala reports that rebel forces have wiped out a battalion of the elite 35th Infantry Division of the Salvadoran People’s Army five miles east of Santa Ana....


From the October 27th, 1981 Boston Globe:


As the guerrilla war against the NEC government in El Salvador approaches its third year, Salvadoran president Nicola Mendes finds himself captaining a ship of state which is growing danger of sinking. His regime has lost much of its credibility abroad and is under literal and figurative attack at home; younger El Salvadorans, angered that the reforms promised by the NEC when it took over the government nine years ago have either failed disastrously or never materialized at all, are swelling the ranks of the rebel forces in growing numbers...


From the February 8th, 1982 Toronto Globe & Mail:





Five people arrested, one police officer injured in melee at memorial rally

honoring Salvadoran revolutionary leader; Machado’s tomb defaced


From the July 16th, 1982 broadcast of Nightline:


The town of San Francisco Gotera has long been famous as the cradle of El Salvador’s 1970 leftist NEC revolution-- and if the rebel Salvadoran National Restoration Party led by Jose Napoleon Duarte has its way, Gotera may soon also be known as the NEC revolution’s grave. The annihilation last Friday of a full division of the Salvadoran People’s Army near the outskirts of that town has cast doubt on whether the NEC regime can retain power in the face of the right-wing insurgents’ persistent and increasingly successful efforts to undermine it....


From the Wikipedia entry on El Salvador’s NEC era:


During the NEC’s rule in El Salvador, the anniversary of the Machado forces’ final victory in the 1970-72 Salvadoran Revolution was celebrated as a nationwide holiday, National Liberation Day. The final such observance, held shortly before the Mendes regime collapsed, was marked by SNRP attacks on the presidential palace in San Salvador and protests calling for the government to negotiate a cease-fire agreement with the SNRP insurgents...


From Red Sunset:


Five years after the SNRP began its uprising against the NEC government, it was in control of most of El Salvador. The Salvadoran People’s Army defeat at Gotera ate away at the government forces’ morale like sulfuric acid; as the SNRP troops kept improving as a fighting force, the SPA suffered a corresponding deterioration in its own combat effectiveness....


From the December 11th, 1984 broadcast of BBC’s 9 O’Clock News:


An SNRP spokesman at the organization’s headquarters in Guatemala City has confirmed that two SNRP divisions are attacking an SPA base east of Zaragoza...


From President Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural address:


To the tyrants who have kept the people of El Salvador in bondage for nearly thirteen years I say to you: the day is fast approaching when you must either give them the freedom they want and deserve, or suffer the full fury of their righteous anger for all the wrongs you have done them...


From the March 23rd, 1985 Miami Herald:




Anti-NEC Insurgents May Be In Position To

Mount Final Offensive On San Salvador


From 10 News that same evening:


A spokesman for El Salvador’s interior ministry has admitted tonight that the town of Delgado, located just northwest of the capital city San Salvador, is now in the hands of the SNRP rebel army led by ex-San Salvador mayor Jose Napoleon Duarte. Duarte, long an outspoken and passionate foe of El Salvador’s current socialist NEC government, claims that final victory in his group’s nearly six-year-long struggle to overthrow the NEC regime is only weeks or even days off....


From the April 13th, 1985 broadcast of NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw:


Less than a month before the NEC government of El Salvador is scheduled to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the beginning of the 1970 Salvadoran Revolution, it finds itself fighting for its very life as SNRP insurgent forces have begun their final offensive on the capital, San Salvador. Political science analysts suggest that if the Mendes regime is toppled, it would leave Fidel Castro’s Cuba as the only viable socialist government remaining in the Western Hemisphere and deal a devastating blow to Soviet efforts to expand Moscow’s influence in Latin America....


From a dispatch by the KGB station chief in Havana to agency director Viktor Chebrikov dated April 18th, 1985:


The situation in El Salvador has drastically worsened since my last report to you. The reactionary forces in the country have the upper hand, and I believe it is only a question of time before Comrade President Mendes is overthrown. I therefore request authorization to evacuate all remaining field agents from Salvadoran territory effective immediately...


From the April 20th, 1985 broadcast of CBC News At Six:


Associated Press correspondents inside San Salvador have confirmed that SNRP forces have entered the city...


From Red Sunset:


Early on the afternoon of April 21st, 1985 SNRP rebel troops reached the heart of San Salvador. Inside the presidential palace, Nicola Mendes’ senior advisors were pleading with him to end hostilities and accept a cease-fire with the SNRP forces, but Mendes would have none of it...Grabbing an AK-47 from one of his army officers, he took a jeep and eight of his most loyal supporters to the battle lines to personally confront the SNRP guerrillas...


From the April 22nd, 1985 New York Times:






From a CNN special report the next day:


Within the past half-hour we have received confirmation from a reporter with the Swiss television network Schweizer Fernsehen 1 that Nicola Mendes, head of El Salvador’s left-wing NEC party and Salvadoran president since 1976, has been found dead. According to eyewitness accounts, Mendes was apparently killed yesterday while leading Salvadoran People’s Army troops in a firefight against SNRP forces...


From Ocho de Mayo:


The death of Nicola Mendes effectively sealed the fate of the Machadoistas as a political and military force in El Salvador. With his demise, what was left of NEC power collapsed, and on April 24th the acting NEC party chairman, Raoul Facienda, agreed to a cease-fire with the SNRP. After nearly fifteen years, the SCNL/NEC era in El Salvador had ended. The repercussions of the NEC regime’s collapse would not only be felt in El Salvador, however-- Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States, saw the SNRP victory over the Mendes forces as a vindication of his tough anti-Communist foreign policy. Within less than a year after the NEC was overthrown, their chief overseas ally, the Soviet Union, would see its own government begin to crumble as it tried to cope with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster...

Along with Chernobyl, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Duarte Rebellion’s victory over the Mendes government of El Salvador is viewed by modern historians as one of the seminal moments in the end of the Cold War. Today, twenty years after the end of the 1970 Salvadoran Revolution, the appeal of the Machadoista ideology is limited strictly to unreconstructed hardline Marxists like the aging Fidel Castro in Cuba or North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and fringe agitators like failed two-time Venezuelan presidential candidate Hugo Chavez...


The End


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