“Massacre in El Salvador,” a collaboration with Frontline and ProPublica, tells the story of the worst massacre in recent Latin American history, and why a final reckoning is at risk.

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As Massacre Survivors Seek Justice, El Salvador Grapples With 1,000 Ghosts

Writer and Producer: Kit R. Roane

Salvadoran military officers accused of ordering a massacre that left 1,000 people dead have been investigated in recent years, but their trial, and a final reckoning, may now be in jeopardy.

The 1981 rampage, perpetrated by soldiers trained and equipped by the United States, took place in and near the village of El Mozote. More than half the victims were children. Despite investigations, courtroom maneuvering and decades of pleas by survivors, no one has ever been held responsible.

High-ranking military officers accused of ordering the slaughter were investigated in recent years, but their trial, and a final reckoning, may now be in jeopardy.

This collaboration by Retro Report, Frontline PBS and ProPublica revisits El Mozote. New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner was one of the first journalists to uncover evidence of the massacre, along with the photographer Susan Meiselas. His reporting was roundly – and wrongly – assailed at the time by the Reagan administration, but history has borne out the truth of his first-hand accounts.

Then, a few years ago, a judge in El Salvador began an investigation to determine who should be held accountable. For a time, there was a sense that there might be a resolution in the search for justice by the men and women who had somehow managed to survive.

But the president of El Salvador wants his country to move into the future by forgetting the past. Now a trial of officers accused of ordering the massacre is in jeopardy.

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Remembrance of a Massacre — El Mozote: Foreward by Raymond Bonner, photographs by Susan Meiselas
First-Hand Account: Lessons From the El Mozote Massacre by Clyde Haberman
The High Price of Doing Journalism in El Salvador by Nelson Rauda
In El Salvador, a Journalist Faces New Limits. ‘We Want to Continue Shedding Light.
Transcript in Spanish

TranscriptLesson PlanCollection: Global Cold WarCollection: Cold War in Latin America