Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador in 1980, frequently met with the military's top commander, pressing him to stop the civilian killings. "García would mutter something about the 'idiosincracías' of the Salvadoran military," said White, now 87 and retired outside Washington, D.C. "He meant that they'd always solved their problems by killing people."

They would make sure he never performed surgery again. Then a soldier shot him through the forearm.

In April 1983 García resigned as minister of defense, and Vides was appointed in his place, serving until 1989. That year, both men fled to Florida, where most of their children had been sent years earlier. Two of García's daughters, María and Martha, had already bought a house in Plantation for $124,000 in 1983; one of Vides' daughters, Marta, was enrolled at Florida International University.

García and his wife of 30 years, Marta, settled into the Plantation home. Vides and his wife, Lourdes, the daughter of a prominent coffee baron, settled in Palm Coast and built a 2,600-square-foot, three-bedroom stucco home. The U.S. government continued its unabashed support: After receiving political asylum, in 1993 both were awarded the Legion of Merit, for outstanding service to the U.S. military.

Seventy-four-year-old Dolores Hernández, whose son Andrés disappeared during the war, stands before the victims' wall in Parque Cuzcatlán.
Trevor Bach
Seventy-four-year-old Dolores Hernández, whose son Andrés disappeared during the war, stands before the victims' wall in Parque Cuzcatlán.

December 12, 1980, was the Day of the Virgin Guadalupe in the tiny village of Santa Anita, three hours by dusty, potholed roads from the capital. Dressed in white suits and flowing pastel dresses for the holiday, dozens of campesinos from the surrounding villages descended on the town's plaza. After a mass at the small church, all the children received the traditional blessing, and the villagers began a processional around the square.

A few minutes later, a small medical team visiting from San Salvador, led by a slight man with dark hair and eyes and a compact face, began setting up a volunteer clinic at a house next to the church. A crowd quickly gathered.

Two green army trucks pulled up with a half-dozen or so men on top. Some wore civilian clothes and others the dark-green uniforms of the military; all clutched black, American-made M60 machine guns. A commotion erupted, but the medical team and its young surgeon, Juan Romagoza, urged calm: It was a holiday. They thought the soldiers would leave them alone.

The trucks came to a stop near a huge tree that grew in the middle of the plaza. The soldiers stepped down. Then they opened fire.

Romagoza felt a flash of heat on his right ankle, then the warm sensation of blood soaking his sock. He looked down and saw the bullet had knocked off his boot, but the pain hadn't yet come. The doctor tried to run, only to realize he couldn't move his foot. Then he felt another flash, this time on his head — a bullet had just grazed his temple. More shots were fired; corpses lay scattered on the ground. After several minutes of silence, the doctor heard a commander give the order to leave no one alive.

A soldier walked up to him, positioned the barrel of his machine gun against the doctor's head, and pulled the trigger. But he had accidentally left the safety on. Before he could shoot again, he noticed Romagoza's backpack. The surgical tools inside, the soldier declared, were the unassembled parts of a special weapon.

The doctor showed his medical credentials, but the soldier ignored them: Romagoza, he barked, was a guerrilla commander. A group of soldiers dragged the bleeding doctor onto the back of one of the trucks, covered him with a tarp, and drove a few minutes to a waiting helicopter. When it took off, the soldiers tied Romagoza next to the door, opened it, and threatened to throw him out. Several minutes later the chopper landed at a garrison called "El Paraíso." Romagoza was laid on a cement table, stripped to his underwear, and blindfolded, the blood from his face quickly staining the cloth red. Then the questions began:

"What were you doing with these people?"

"Who were the other guerrilla commanders?"

Each time Romagoza answered, the soldiers punched him. With an iron rod, they delivered electrical shocks to his chest, hands, and legs.

The following day, Romagoza was taken to the national guard headquarters in San Salvador. There the shocks were delivered through alligator clips clamped to his ear, tongue, and the wound on his ankle. He was often left suspended by ropes for hours — once, while he was hanging and defenseless, guardsmen walked in and told him they would make sure he never performed surgery again. Then a soldier shot him through the left forearm.

After more than two weeks, the tormenters said their colonel, "El Mazizo" — "Burly One" — would visit. It was Vides. When the director of the national guard walked into Romagoza's cell, a few guardsmen joked that the doctor should be in the cemetery — he already smelled like death. Vides laughed.

Several days later, Romagoza, barely clinging to life, was taken to a new room full of wooden coffins. He was placed inside one and left for three days, until finally, on January 5, 1981 — 24 days after he was first detained — an uncle, who was a military lieutenant, walked into the room and took Romagoza into his arms. By then the doctor weighed less than 80 pounds. He couldn't walk on his own.

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can we also deport all the thousands of children flooding our borders  from central america !




When will the same for is for Luis Posada Carriles who did bombings in Miami and DC 1970s??? He is still here undocumented....TOSS Carrilles out!!

fire.ant topcommenter

Terrific story.