The Salvadoran Military
As I walk down the streets of my hometown, I can’t help but feel like something is missing. Is it the lack of safety? Maybe. Is it the constant economical change? Maybe. Is it the constant political activity? It could be. All in all, what can a seventeen-year-old boy do to cope with the situation? I don’t know - I’m just a kid. But as a citizen of this wonderful country, I feel the need to demystify the Salvadoran military, and how we arrived at where we are today.
The Salvadoran Armed Forces were instituted back in 1821 when El Salvador had finally achieved its independence from Spain. This institution was created with three goals in mind: 1) defending the Integrity of El Salvador, 2) defending its citizens, and 3) preserving its national institutions. The founding the institution can be attributed to General Manuel Jose Arce, who became quite a figure in Salvadoran History. However, in its beginnings, the Salvadoran military was antiquated, using old, if not outdated, weapons and tactics. This did not seem to matter to the Salvadoran government, as it seemed as if technology did not matter in Central American warfare. As time passed, Mexico and Guatemala got the idea that they could unite Central America into one whole state, again. This had already happened back in 1829 with the Federal Republic of Central America, and it had ended in catastrophe. El Salvador, the only country in Central America to go against this thought, knew that this union would not end up well. El Salvador ended up fighting against two bigger countries. Guatemala and Mexico attacked El Salvador, but EL Salvador managed to put a halt on the combined forces, even though the Salvadoran Army was smaller than that of Mexico and Guatemala. The Mexicans were stopped in a little town which now is called "Mejicanos."
As time passed, the Salvadoran Military remained the same. No real advancement occurred until the turn of the century. With the 1900's at hand, a new age was coming to the Salvadoran Army. As every country in the world began arms racing, El Salvador had to continue this trend. It began to buy Czech rifles, in big quantities, and began bringing military advisors from Europe. The military had been finally "modernized." However, as the 1930’s approached, the Great Depression that had hit the United States and Europe so hard was finally reaching El Salvador. Coffee prices fell so hard internationally that the national economy was devastated. Indeed, the country was in need of a "strong" leader. Therefore, el general Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez became the next "president" of El Salvador. Most commonly known as "General Martinez,” he was a strong advocate for the military. He brought discipline to the army, but his methods of ruling were quiet questionable.
During the 30's, there was this trend to put up dictatorships. El Salvador, following the status quo, put up a "dictatorship.” Due to the fall of coffee prices, thousands of peasants, mostly Indian, marched for better wages. The main mastermind of the march was the communist leader Farabundo Marti. The Salvadoran Government knew this and acted following the status quo of the time. The march was stopped, but thousands of Indians died.
Ironically, when the United States declared war on Germany, so did El Salvador. Thus, El Salvador ratified its power as a Central American nation. During this time, the United States feared a Nazi invasion, and offered to send down some Marines in order to help secure the area. Most Central American countries were glad to get this help. However, El Salvador denied the entry of such troops. El General Martinez believed that by letting foreign troops into the country, he would be not only insulting the armed forces of El Salvador, but letting foreign influence into the country. Furthermore, El Salvador was present in the European Theatre with troops to Europe, even if it was only about two hundred.
When the 1950's and 60's came, thousands of Salvadorans moved to Honduras looking for jobs. In effect they found jobs, but these were not free. They came at a cost. The cost was war. When the many Hondurans realized that their jobs were being taken by Salvadorans, they reacted violently. The Salvadoran government acted against this threat, and in 1969, after a soccer match between El Salvador and Honduras (which El Salvador won giving the name "la guerra del futbol" to the war), El Salvador declared war on Honduras. The War of 100 hours, or "la guerra de las cien horas," had begun. El Salvador’s military penetrated deep inside Honduran territory, causing heavy casualties on the Honduran side. El Salvador was ready to declare this a military victory, when the OEA (Organization of American States) interfered and forced peace down the throats of both El Salvador and Honduras. In the end, El Salvador achieved a military victory, but it had achieved a political loss as it had lost much territory to Honduras as compensation to them. In effect, the Salvadoran Armed forces have demonstrated throughout the years that the number of guns does not matter. It is the spirit and strength of the soldiers that matter. I can’t help but feel proud of my country for most of its achievements.