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Washington Peace Letter Features GCAP Global Council Co-Chair, Marta Benavides

The Washington Peace Center presents their latest Peace Letter issue titled the "20 Years of the U.S. in Iraq" featuring an article by GCAP Global Council Co-Chair, Marta Benavides:


My heart is heavy as I write this piece reflecting on the history and struggle of the people of El Salvador in relation to the people of Iraq. We who have experienced war know that the environmental and societal destruction does not end with a ceasefire or peace treaty. Nearly 20 years after the end of armed conflict in El Salvador, we still suffer from exploitation, the negative impacts of free trade agreements, and coup d ’états. Yet I know that we, like the people of Iraq, will continue to work for peace and justice. My story is about where we are in El Salvador and exploring the necessary steps needed to become a different society.

In January 1992, the Peace Accords in El Salvador were signed, ending a bloody and costly civil war.

They resulted in the legalization of our demands for human rights and the formation of the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), a political party that is in office today. Despite these encouraging negotiations, it was a long road until these promises came to fruition. For the previous 20 years, the government used fear and fraud to stay in power. There were hundreds of deaths, disappearances, imprisonments, rapes, tortures, and exiles. But through international campaigns, pressuring our legislature, and impacting U.S. policy, the people eventually saw the fruit of their labor. On March 15, 2009, the presidential elections in El Salvador arrived.

Even amid whispered fears about possible violence among followers of the opposite parties, as had happened during earlier campaigns, we had to go vote.

The FMLN, forbidden during the war in the 1980s, was now the majority opposition party and finally had a chance to win and govern. This was Bishop Romero’s dream, my dad and mother’s dream, that of Schafik, of Masferrer, Roque Dalton, Prudencia Ayala, of all humble Salvadoran men, women, and children who have suffered and risked everything since 1492 to create the processes, times, and spaces to achieve peace and justice. It is on the shoulders of their history that we arrived at that day. The newly elected president and his administration were elected to work for change. There was a political shift and the dawning of a new era, but our struggle was not over.

Iraq today is a symbol for all people who know the importance of freedom, justice, and peace.

It is a point of departure to see the impact of policies of war and the lack of a real commitment for state policies for peace. Since Iraq, many more wars have been the reality not only for the Middle East but for all of us in the world. The way that the war in Iraq came about - justified, legitimized, and ongoing - is still the norm.

What fuels such wars? 

How can the citizens of the countries waging these wars un- derstand the relationship between the war and their daily living? Do they know what it takes to maintain the world as we know it today? Nearly 20 years after the Peace Accords, interventionist foreign policies continue to permeate our lives in El Salvador. We continue to suffer from terrible problems resulting from our officially dollarized economy and globalization. Simple things like tortillas and cooking gas have doubled or tripled in cost. El Salvador is presently the most violent country in the Americas, creating a lack of opportunities for young people and breeding even more violence. Corruption has been rampant at all levels.

As we reflect on Iraq, we must provide alternatives to this framework.

Withdrawal from Iraq will be a challenging situation as the U.S. leaves behind 20 years of destruction, violence, and social ills. It is my deepest wish that we move forward and create, in a conscious manner, a culture of peace. We must live the peace that dignifies difference, equality, equity, and citizen participation; the peace that gov- erns the official governments; the peace that respects human, economic, ecological, social, and cultural rights; the peace that allows people to live in harmony with Mother Earth. It is said that when we truly - and from the deepest part of our being - long for something, the entire universe will conspire with us to reach it. Let us conspire with the universe itself, and let us daily and everywhere be the change we want and need. 

Download and read the full Peace Letter

The Washington Peace Letter has been a publication of the Washington Peace Center for over 40 years. It is published bi-annually for the social justice community of the DC metropolitan area. Its purpose is to support local, national and international struggles against oppression. It presents a radical analysis of current events, and covers information that is not readily available in the corporate media.