THE DEATH SQUADS HIT HOME

Bielski, Vince & Bernstein, Dennis & Forster, Cindy

The Death Squads Hit Home Which side is the FBI on? BY VINCE BIELSKI, CINDY FORSTER, AND DENNIS BERNSTEIN The Death Squads have come home to roost. For decades they have terrorized civilians in...

...Subject is not a known guerrilla/subversive," the FBI message said...
...However, a formerly classified FBI dispatch supports Varelli's claim that the FBI was officially exchanging information with the Salvadoran National Guard...
...They have become nationwide in scope...
...You are communists...
...Just before one of her abductions in El Salvador, Rivera had received two threatening letters referring to a "dead flower...
...intelligence agencies organized, financed, and trained the Death Squads in El Salvador from the early 1960s to the 1980s...
...The Death Squad members have gathered detailed knowledge of where these activists live, with whom they meet, and how they travel...
...During the questioning, the menówearing caps, masks, and glovesóreeled off the names of "several dozen" Guatemalan and Salvadoran activists from memory...
...At night, I can't sleep because I think somebody is going to come while we are sleeping...
...The Border Patrol turned her over to the FBI, and an FBI agent said the letter contained "classic Marxist rhetoric," because it used the word "companera...
...If subject is deported back to El Salvador, they would desire to be notified of the date and flight number...
...Tying these incidents together is a "death list" delivered to one of the targets and containing the names of nineteen persons...
...Frank Varelli, who the FBI acknowledges was a key informant in the Salvadoran investigation, says he prepared an FBI report on Rivera while she was in Dallas on a speaking tour...
...Varelli, who left the FBI over a financial dispute in 1984, testified before a Congressional committee early this year that such communications occurred on a "regular" basis...
...targets are not random, they are political...
...From what I understand, these groups would be considered antigovernment," Elena says...
...but that happens all over the state," he said...
...embassy in San Salvador from "El Salvadoran authorities...
...II In mid-June, Corea was assaulted for the first time...
...The activist community has been driven further underground...
...It was sent to "supervisor Carter Cornick, FBIHQ," and it was responding to an FBI inquiry about whether Ana Es-tela Guevara Flores, an undocumented Salvadoran arrested in Texas, had been a guerrilla commander in El Salvador...
...The attacks have been aimed at activists, most of them Salvadoran exiles, who oppose the repressive governments of El Salvador and Guatemala and who criticize U.S...
...At least six Salvadorans on the death list had previously been tortured or had family members tortured by Death Squads in El Salvador...
...The FBI proceeded to send a priority message to other FBI offices in the cities Rivera was visiting on her tour...
...July 9: Mercedes Salgado received threatening calls the night before the first press conference held to denounce Corea's rape...
...Detective Ron Elena, who heads the investigation for the Los Angeles Police Department, recognizes that some of the victims are members of activist groups, but he discounts political suspects...
...We fear that the FBI has taken the case as a pretext to investigate us, not the Death Squads...
...On July 17, thirty-one-year-old Ana Maria Lopez traveled by bus to a church where she often met fellow members of the Guatemalan Cultural Committee...
...As they cut the flesh between her fingers, they said: "This is so your brother knows what it feels like to have a family member hurt...
...On July 15, Father Luis Olivares, whose church, Our Lady Queen of Angels, had become a sanctuary for Central American refugees, received a written death threat, with the initials "E.M...
...So I took down everything she said and put it in a report...
...To accomplish this coordinated string of attacks, the Death Squads have relied on a sophisticated intelligence network that enables them to track the activists' comings and goings...
...A few days later, she received a death threat in the mail, accompanied by a picture of her son which was in her stolen purse...
...Cindy Forster edits the newsletter of the Committee to Defend Immigrant and Refugee Rights in San Francisco...
...The attack on Yanira Corea bears the stamp of the Death Squads...
...We responded that this was not true and that we had no idea what they were talking about...
...July 7: Corea was abducted, tortured, and raped...
...In May, activists on the death list began to receive threatening phone calls...
...They dumped her beneath a bridge, her eyes still taped and her mouth gagged...
...representative of the Salvadoran teachers' union, ANDES...
...I was on the patio of my house playing with my two daughters, one of whom was three years old and the other seven months old," Cecibel recalls...
...This time we did not let them enter the house, and they left," Cecibel says...
...And the Bureau has specifically targeted at least one of the Salvadorans who received a death threat...
...They said they would kill the Guatemalan activists if they continued working with the Salvadorans...
...Border Patrol found a letter in her possession introducing her to church activists in Puerto Rico...
...One former FBI insider says the FBI actually shared intelligence with Salvadoran security forces in chasing down Salvadoran activists, and a recently uncovered FBI document supports the charge...
...My daughters, who were already sleeping, were startled and began to cry...
...Then my husband opened the door...
...The Death Squads first appeared on the U.S...
...July 10: The death list arrived in the mailbox of Marta Alicia Rivera...
...The Guard also wanted to know who in the United States could be considered to be opposed to the National Guard's interests in El Salvador...
...How political can a twenty-two-year-old be...
...The day after his fender was crushed, a written threat was slipped under the door of his home...
...In Dallas on August 5, a death threat was directed against workers at Proyecto Adelante, a Salvadoran refugee group...
...The Bureau wanted to know who was wanted by the National Guard," Varelli says, "and whether there were organizations in the United States against Reagan's policy in El Salvador that had contacts with the same elements in El Salvador that the National Guard was seeking...
...I was attacked and raped in El Salvador in exactly the same way as Yanira," says Maria, a refugee in Los Angeles...
...In Washington, D.C., on July 28, the Rescate Novo refugee center was broken into and its telephone wires cut...
...Yanira Corea came to the United States in 1981...
...There was extreme interest from the FBI in Washington because she was from ANDES," the Salvadoran teachers' union, Varelli says...
...One car belonged to Victor Rios, the southwest regional coordinator of CISPES...
...Harold Ezell, a regional director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, accused Corea of carrying out a public-relations stunt...
...they returned and stationed themselves in front of the house and stayed there until my husband left for work...
...Activists confirmed that Varelli attended Rivera's speech that night...
...The message read: "For being a communist, what happened to your car will happen to you...
...After driving by for an hour, they parked in front of the house and one of the men came up to me and asked for my husband...
...Isaura is the first name of a co-leader in AMPES with Yanira Corea...
...And in Chicago in August, windows at the CISPES office were smashed and graffiti written across the walls: Death to CISPES, Death to the FMLN...
...You work with the people of El Salvador," the caller said...
...The FBI has begun investigating the attacks...
...Tenemos buenos contactos," ("We have good contacts,") they repeatedly told her, and to prove it they gave Lopez the names of the activists who were attending the meeting that night at the church...
...he asks, adding that he is looking for assailants with personal grudges against her...
...After an hour and a half of questions they left, but they continued to pass in front of the house in their cars...
...What's more, at least one of the activists targeted by the Vince Bielski and Dennis Bernstein work with Pacific News Service, which funded research for this article...
...They taped her eyes shut, removed her underwear, and stuffed it in her mouth...
...I told him again that he wasn't home and that I didn't know what time he would be back...
...I don't know what difference it makes, I'm just looking for some asshole to put in jail...
...Government lends to them...
...Salgado's name also ended up on the death list...
...Varelli sent the report to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C...
...At the transfer point between two bus lines, she was kidnapped at gunpoint, pushed into a car, and interrogated for two hours...
...At the time of Guevara Flores's arrest in 1981, the U.S...
...We are going to get you," the caller said, "and we know where your mother moved to, and we are going to get her...
...and perhaps copies of documents found on subject could be furnished the captain of Taca [a Salvadoran airline] for passage to El Salvador National Guard, to the attention of Col...
...Salvadoran activists say they have been the target of more than 200 threats, a rape, a shooting, two kidnappings, an assault, and numerous car smashings and apartment break-ins...
...Both Lopez and Corea work with women's organizations active in the solidarity movement...
...Most of the sixteen Salvadorans who were working with Houston's Casa El Salvador fled to Canada after their encounters with the Bureau...
...Rios's name later appeared on the death list...
...But the attacks have extended beyond Los Angeles...
...One North American is on the list, as are two Mexican Americans, including the national coordinator of CISPES...
...They know everything about us," one says...
...to El Salvador...
...You escaped in El Salvador...
...Within the week, she received an anonymous phone call from someone who laughed loudly and hung up...
...One evening after the assault on Corea, while Isaura and her friend were apart, he received a phone call at his apartment...
...If Varelli contacted the National Guard, the FBI says, he was acting on his own, without FBI 'authorization...
...For their part, El Salvador's notorious security forces were extremely interested in finding out details on the Salvadoran activists in the United States...
...On such evidence, the FBI proceeded to consult with the Salvadoran authorities to see if Guevara Flo-res was a Salvadoran guerrilla...
...The message was prepared by the FBI's legal attache in Panama and based on information collected by the U.S...
...Bielski and Bernstein are also producers of "Contragate," a daily investigative report into the Iran-Contra scandal on WBAI in New York City...
...It is by no means the only one...
...Just before the press conference, her car window was smashed...
...They showed no interest in the possibility that Death Squads might be targeting the Salvadoran community," says Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who is advising Corea...
...This evidence raises the disturbing question of whether the Death Squads are using FBI intelligence to terrorize residents of the United States...
...Another Salvadoran activist on the death list had been receiving threats over the phone, so she moved to a different house...
...Cecibel is the first name of a Salvadoran activist and mother of two...
...In addition, the Washington offices of CISPES and Casa El Salvador have received threats...
...If we don't get your son, we'll get your daughter," the Death Squad letter warned...
...The FBI strenuously denies that it shared such intelligence with El Salvador's security forces...
...But the FBI is not a neutral party...
...Now El Salvador's Defense Minister, Casanova was one of several military officers "personally responsible for the development and administration of El Salvador's Death Squad assassination program," according to The American Connection, by Michael McClintock...
...Once they were inside, they said they were FBI agents and they wanted to know if we were members of a terrorist organization called Casa El Salvador that sends arms and money to the terrorists in El Salvador...
...At 8 p.m., they returned and stationed themselves in front of the house with the lights of the car shining towards the house," Cecibel continues...
...The agent asked if my father was an organizer, where my parents lived, if my sister was in the United States, and I wouldn't answer," says one of the activists on the list...
...The FBI, he told Congress, had ordered him to set up such an operation in 1981...
...Just kill her," one said, but another one countered, "No, this way we're going to let them know that we are here...
...Almost all of those threatened have had to change residence in Los Angeles, and at least two have fled the city entirely...
...Like her father, Corea's brother is a longtime activist in El Salvador's popular movement...
...For six hours, they used cigarettes to burn the tips of her fingers, cut her tongue and hands with a knife, and beat her on the head and face when she refused to provide them with information about her own and her brother's activities...
...She was forced into a van at knifepoint by three men, two with Salvadoran accents and the third with a Nic-araguan or Honduran accent...
...But her daughter still lived at home and received a call soon after her mother moved out...
...July 11: The home of one of the targeted activists was burglarized...
...Death Squads had been under surveillance by the FBI, and many of them work with solidarity groups the FBI has monitored...
...The FBI's participation, though, provides little relief...
...Ana Maria Lopez, a Guatemalan activist who was also abducted, was given a similar warning: "We're going to start with the women, and you should tell your people that...
...We know all the Salvadoran women who are here, and this will keep on," Corea's assailants told her...
...Out of fear, her mother destroyed the letters...
...Rivera, who was a nationally known ANDES union official in El Salvador, was brutally tortured in 1979 and again in 1981 for publicly condemning "the truly barbarous government repression and slaughter of teachers," she says...
...If As in El Salvador, their U.S...
...But the Salvadoran authorities still wanted to "detain" her...
...The FMLN is the leading Salvadoran guerrilla movement...
...Yanira Corea's case is but the most extreme incident of Death Squad activity in the United States...
...In June, while driving with her three-year-old son, she was run off the road by two men who tried to pull her out of her car, beat her, and stole her purse...
...Now they are terrorizing civilians in the United States...
...But the following day at 5 a.m...
...The FBI has interviewed most of the nineteen individuals on the death list, but some have refused to provide details about their backgrounds for fear that the FBI might use it against them...
...Nobody will be saved...
...The attacks have been centered in Los Angeles, but several incidents have occurred in other major U.S...
...Beginning in April, twenty cars belonging to Salvadoran and North American activists were vandalized...
...Because of such harassment, the activists in Los Angeles who are being targeted by the Death Squads are wary of cooperating with the Bureau's investigation...
...He specifically shies away from political motives behind Corea's rape and torture...
...Just remember E.M...
...In the last six months, concurrent with a sudden increase of Death Squad activity in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Death Squads have taken the bold and unprecedented step of importing their brand of terror into this country...
...On returning to Texas, Varelli says, he "regularly" telephoned the Guard, on orders from the FBI, and provided "names of people who had been deported from the U.S...
...Mercedes Salgado, the coordinator of all the Salvadoran activist groups in the area, and Corea, who is co-chair of the Salvadoran women's association, AMPES, and a rising leader of the activist community...
...The incidents occurred two days before Angela Sambrano, the CISPES national coordinator who is on the death list, arrived in Chicago to discuss CISPES strategy in the face of the Los Angeles attacks...
...The FBI shared its intelligence with the Salvadoran security forces, Varelli says...
...In July 1981, Varelli, a Salvadoran native, traveled to his home country on orders from FBI special agent Dan Flanagan...
...support for those regimes...
...Marta Alicia Rivera, who received the threatening letter from the Death Squads this summer, was one of the activists the FBI singled out for surveillance...
...The Bureau says it collected seventeen volumes of information on CISPES, which it has refused to release, even though it found no evidence of terrorist activity...
...Of the nineteen activists on the death list, eleven are women...
...You communist whore, we're going to kill you," one caller said...
...For decades they have terrorized civilians in El Salvador...
...When she received the death list in July, she found a note attached containing the sentence: "Rowers in the desert die...
...I told them he wasn't home but he insisted, saying that they were friends...
...After ten minutes, they came up and knocked on the door of the house very loudly...
...In "Behind the Death Squads," published by The Progressive in May 1984, free-lance writer Allan Nairn explained how U.S...
...The markings stand for Esquadron de Muerte, a name commonly used by the Death Squads in El Salvador...
...scene in April 1987 in Los Angeles when a twenty-two-year-old Salvadoran activist, Yanira Corea, began receiving threatening letters...
...Other groups were also investigated...
...In the name of combating terrorism, the FBI has officially investigated the same groups whose members are now fending off Death Squad attacks...
...Days after Corea was tortured and raped, the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI refused to consider the incident as anything more than a common street crime...
...In Houston in 1985, for instance, the FBI effectively shut down the Salvadoran political community...
...When asked about the threat Corea's father received in El Salvador, which was revealed in The Los Angeles Times, Elena denied ever hearing about it...
...Among the targeted Salvadorans are fourteen of the leading activists, including Marta Alicia Rivera, the U.S...
...the caller asked and then hung up...
...They insisted, so my husband allowed them to enter...
...When he left the house, the FBI agents followed him and I was very afraid so I went behind him with the two girls...
...Seven days later, they returned...
...According to a former FBI informant and an FBI document, the FBI shared intelligence about Salvadoran activists in the United States with El Salvador's notorious security forces...
...The death list carried a message: "To Marta Alicia and her Terrorist Comrades...
...One was molested...
...One month later, Co-rea's father in El Salvador received a threat against her...
...The FBI recently acknowledged it had conducted a nationwide undercover investigation of "Salvadoran leftist activities in the United States," which utilized twenty-three field offices between 1981 and 1984...
...For security, Isaura made a practice of having a male friend stay at her house at night...
...The FBI has also used more traditional forms of harassment to intimidate Salvadoran activists in the United States...
...Ten days after the rape, and seven days after the death list was delivered, the Los Angeles police department had not interviewed any of the other targeted activists...
...On July 7, Corea was abducted in broad daylight outside the Los Angeles office of the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) at 1727 North Spring Street...
...Finally, the man left but they continued to drive in front of the house...
...In San Francisco in late July, Catholic Charities, the headquarters of the Sanctuary movement, received a phone threat...
...There is no question in my mind that these are the same people...
...scrawled on it in big letters...
...What we are doing in Los Angeles, we're going to do here...
...Finally, ten days after the crime and some five months after the harassment had begun, the FBI announced it was opening an investigation into "allegations of possible 'El Salvadoran Death Squads' operating in Los Angeles...
...We are observing you," the caller said...
...July 13: Two Salvadoran women on the death list received threats over the phone...
...Papers have been stolen, car windows smashed, fenders damaged...
...Eugenio Vides Casanova, Director General...
...I was very afraid because I am also carrying our third child and my stomach hurts me a lot...
...That same day, a Salvadoran man who lived with the activist whose house was robbed narrowly escaped an abduction attempt, but was shot in the leg as he ran away...
...One afternoon around 3 p.m., she noticed three men in a vehicle outside her house...
...Cecibel and her family are now living in Canada...
...The assailants are engaging in a highly organized, systematic campaign to try to silence critics of El Salvador and Guatemala and the aid the U.S...
...They knew exactly what they were doing," Corea says, "like they had done it a thousand times before...
...Why are you not with Isaura tonight...
...Corea's captors used a sharp wooden object to rape her anally and vaginally...
...In El Salvador, Varelli says he met with National Guard chief Eugenio Vides Casanova...
...Activist women are now accompanied everywhere they go, and they are reluctant to speak publicly about the threats against them...
...There were forty murders in Santa Ana last year, but we don't blame those on the Death Squads...
...Varelli has produced phone records showing calls made from his home in Dallas to the National Guard in El Salvador during his tenure as an informant...
...cities...
...I thought she was carrying bombs and everything...
...Here with us you will not...
...The incidents of harassment have unfolded with increasing severity in the last six months, suggesting a systematic plan of attack...
...The terror has already taken its toll...
...There is virtually no evidence" of a connection with Central American Death Squads, he says...
...I went to the doctor and he told me that I could lose the child if this situation continues...
...The Guard wanted to know the names of persons the United States was deporting back to El Salvador as well as the expected date of arrival," Varelli says...

Vol. 51 • October 1987 • No. 10


 
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