Archived: Salvadoran Says US Advisors Watched Torture Class

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Rich Winkel

Apr 10, 1995, 3:00:00 AM4/10/95
Here are excerpts from an article from the New York Times, 1/11/82,
titled "US advisors saw 'torture class,' Salvadoran says" by Raymond
A 21 year old who asserts that he is a former Salvadoran soldier says
that US military advisors were present at two "training sessions" early
last year when two suspected guerrillas were tortured by Salvadoran army

In a series of interviews, the young man, Carlos Antonio Gomez Montano,
said the men that he described as americans attended the sessions as
observers and did not take part in the torture. But he said they made
no apparent effort to stop or protest the activity, in which a 17-year
old youth and a 13 year old girl were tortured. He said they were
subsequently killed, but not in the presence of the american advisors.
Their bodies, he said, were dumped on the street in San Salvador.

Mr. Gomez, who asserted that he fled from his paratroop unit at the
Ilopango air force base outside San Salvador in May, said he had
recognized the americans as part of a group of US military advisors who
arrived in El Salvador a few days earlier. The sessions, which he said
were known as "torture classes" took place last January, he added.

Mr. Gomez, a short, wiry youth who lives in exile in Mexico, also
charged that the Salvadoran Army routinely mutilated the bodies of
suspected guerrilla sympathizers and dropped others in the sea from

A senior defense department official and a former commander of the US
military group in El Salvador denied that american military personnel in
El Salvador had witnessed any torture sessions.

Mr. Gomez's account could not be independently corroborated. He was
also unable to provide documentary evidence that he had belonged to the
salvadoran armed forces - he said he had discarded all proof of identity
when he deserted - but in seven hours of conversations he revealed a
knowledge of military life in El Salvador that lent credibility to his

Col. Rafael Bustillo, commander of the Salvadoran air force, said that
Mr. Gomez's name did not appear in any military records and that
"therefore this man has no basis for his accusations since he was not a
soldier here at the time."

But other military sources said that official files confirmed that Mr.
Gomez was recruited Nov 1, 1980, and deserted in the early spring.

Before the americans arrived in mid January [Gomez said], his paratroop
batallion was told by Salvadoran officers that, in addition to the
rifles and other weapons being provided by the US, members of the
"famous green berets" were being sent as "new instructors." There was a
military ceremony to welcome the advisors, Mr. Gomez said, adding that
some wore green berets when they arrived. But he said they did not wear
their berets when they watched the torture session.

Mr. Gomez said that before one of the torture sessions the assembled
troops were told by a salvadoran officer that watching "will make you
feel more like a man." He said that the officer added that the soldiers
should "not feel pity of anyone," but only "hate for those who are
enemies of our country."

At the first torture session [...] a masked salvadoran soldier jabbed
the tip of his bayonet into the chest and rib cage of a 17 year old
youth. [the soldier] applying his boot as leverage, broke the youth's
arm at the elbow. After further tortures, he said, the youth was

During the second session, which Mr. Gomez said was held after sunday
mass, a 13 year old girl was similarly tortured and killed.

According to Mr. Gomez, many guerrillas or people suspected of being
guerrilla sympathizers were dropped alive into the sea from helicopters.
On other occasions, he said, bodies were discarded along roads after
the faces had been slashed so they could not be identified.

[...] soldiers were instructed by their officers and senior enlisted men
to kill anyone, including old people, women and children [...] the
soldiers were told that "the majority of the peasants are guerrillas."

Mr. Gomez said that his father, mother, older brother and sister were
killed in May by national guard soldiers because his brother was a
member of a guerrilla unit.

... [one of those drafted with Gomez] was promoted to sergeant a few
months [after being drafted] after he had killed his own parents and two
siblings because they were guerilla sympathizers, Mr. Gomez recalled.
During a military ceremony [...] an air force colonel pointed to the
sergeant's act and his promotion as demonstrations of "bravery" and the
"hope for progress in a military career."
The following is taken from Covert Action Information Bulletin, #16,
3/82. Sorry for the graphic details, but if it's true, the least we can
do is understand what it is we're paying for.
... During the vietnam war US troops and CIA "police advisors"
regularly engaged in torture to try to obtain information. And, as the
Dan Mitrione incident in Uruguay makes clear, US advisers have in the
past shown their clients how effective torture can be both in obtaining
information and in intimidating the population. ... In further taped
interviews with other journalists, Bonner's source, 21 year old Carlos
Antonio Gomez Montano, implicated some of the Green berets directly in
the commission of torture. These interviews were first reported in the
January 1982 issue of El Salvador Alert, the publication of the
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. CAIB has
obtained the transcript of the critical interview, and what follows are
the portions dealing with the participation of US troops:

"In El Salvador I was cited to report to the barracks. At the same
time, my brother was involved with the guerrilla struggle. Before I
entered into the military, my brother was a guerrilla fighter. He told
me many times, why didn't I incorporate into the guerrilla struggle, for
the people? I said, "No, I didn't like those sorts of things." A few
months later I got a citation from the army that I had to report in
february to the barracks. I did not answer the summons in february, was
summoned again and finally had to go in december of 1980. So I went and
presented myself.

After we were there they taught us how to handle the rifles, different
types of formations, working the streets. They brought us out to the
different towns to carry out searches. After a month, they taught us a
course in anti-guerrilla warfare. Many of my friends went on this
course to panama but I didn't go. After they returned, there was
another course that I took which was for paratroopers. After that
course, they taught us a lot of tactics- advancing, retreating, military
tactics. After that they gave us uniforms and boots that came from the
US camouflage uniforms. Then they gave us some classes about the war in
vietnam- how we should act on the battlefield. What they told us was
that we shouldn't have mercy on anyone, whether it was children or women
or men, but you have to kill all of them.

Many times we would go into the mountains. I saw many things in
relation to the officials, the officers. They took the young men and
women from the houses and brought them to the barracks and afterwards
they tortured them and killed them.

Later we had a welcome for the green berets. That day was the day of
the soldier. They formed all of us up in columns. We had a homage for
those who had fallen and for those still alive too. They got us up for
this to greet these green berets who came from the US. The officers
said they would be able to teach you a new tactic. We didn't have any
idea what this new tactic was; we thought it was something else. The
first time they brought us to a volcano and they brought us to the
slopes of the volcano so that we were going to combat with the guerrilla
fighters. The green berets didn't go into combat; they were just behind
showing us how to do these things. They would criticize is as to what
was good and what was bad. We passed five days on a volcano. There
were 600 of us- in all 5,000. Of those, there were many who didn't
return. There were lots of soldiers who were killed.

Six days later we returned to the barracks and then they began to teach
us how to torture. One evening they went and got nine young people that
were accused of being guerrillas and brought them to where we were.
This was more or less the last time that I had to see very well the type
of torture they carried out against the guerrillas. The first one they
brought- a young fellow who was around 15 or 16 years old and the first
thing they did was to stick the bayonets under his fingernails and
pulled them out. That day he was the first one that died under torture.
This young fellow said all sorts of things against them to let him go.
The officers said "we are going to teach you how to mutilate and how to
teach a lesson to these guerrillas." The officers who were teaching us
this were the american green berets. They didn't speak spanish so they
spoke english and then another officer- salvadoran- translated it into
spanish for us. Then they began to torture this young fellow. They
took out their knives and stuck them under his fingernails. After they
took his fingernails off, then they broke his elbows. Afterwards they
gouged out his eyes. Then they took their bayonets and made all sorts
of slices in his skin all around his chest, arms, and legs. They then
took his hair off and the skin of his scalp. When they saw there was
nothing left to do with him, they threw gasoline on him and burned him.
The next day his dead body wasn't around but was found by people out in
the streets- left in the street.

The next day they started the same thing with a 13 year old girl. They
did more or less the same, but they did other things to her too. First,
she was utilized, raped by all the officers. They stripped her and
threw her in a small room, they went in one by one. Afterwards they
took her out tied and blindfolded. Then they began the same mutilating-
pulling her fingernails out and cutting off her fingers, breaking her
arms, gouging out her eyes and all they did to the other fellow. They
cut her legs and stuck an iron rod into her womb.

The last one they killed that day suffered more, because they stripped
him naked at mid-day. Then they put him on this hot tin and made him
lie there- like he was cooking. After about a half-hour, when they
finally took him off, he was all covered with blisters- like wounds.
They did different types of torture to him. Then they threw him out
alive from a helicopter. He was alive and tied. They go an throw them
out over the sea.

Q: Can you give a better description of the green berets? Names,
numbers, anything?

A: I don't know the names, but there were eight. The officers knew.
There was only one of the eight that could speak spanish. They were
all white- there were some blacks, but I don't know where they were
from. The eight US green berets that were there were all white. They
dressed themselves the same as any soldier. One of them sort of gave
orders but they didn't have any indication of their rank.

Q: Did they rape the women too?

A: No, they only taught.

Q: Did they do the fingernail pulling?

A: It was one of the green berets doing the teaching. The green beret
did the torture on the first one and then the others did the tortures on
the others.

Q: Were any other americans involved?

A: Some sergeants there spoke english but I never knew much about them.
They arrived to teach classes on how to use the helicopters.

Q: Are you sure the green berets were with the US army, or were they

A: I think they belonged to the US army because our officers searched us
very well and told us not to talk about the presence of the US army
there. They prohibited us from speaking about it.

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