Behind enemy lines in El Salvador

In the aftermath of the massacre, the small town was left bloody and raw. Ana Ponce, a human rights delegate, visited the wreckage looking for anyone who’d managed to escape the Salvadorian army’s bullets.

She did find survivors — women malnourished and breastfeeding, young girls pregnant, men who’d cut off their own arms and legs and babies swollen with hunger. She’d dig to find these people in underground holes pocketing the volcano. Then, she’d send them to a safer place.

El Salvador’s civil war was long and brutal. Between 1980 and 1992, government troops fought Marxist guerrillas with machetes and machine guns. In the process, more than 75,000 people died and human rights abuses were commonplace, reports Al Jazeera.

As Ponce describes, the army would attack entire towns where it thought guerrillas may be, leaving few survivors and imprisoning thousands of innocent people. Meanwhile the guerrillas resorted to kidnapping, bombings, robberies and terrorist tactics.

In the midst of these atrocities, people like Ponce were doing their part to protect El Salvadorian lives.

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