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Chapter 6 – Resettlement & the “Desembarco”

Many Salvadorans returned from refugee camps in Honduras in the late 1980s, but faced continued repression upon their return. Refugees were stigmatized as guerrilla supporters. Just days after officially resettling Arcatao in early 1986, the population was targeted by military operations. In an operation which community members call the “Desembarco,” Arcatao was invaded by troops who arrived suddenly in helicopters. The population was ordered to go to the center of town, where the men were separated from the women and children. The men were interrogated and publicly tortured while the women and children were held in the church and threatened. Several men were taken by soldiers and disappeared. Survivors credit an intervention by foreign journalists, who were arrested in the operation, with preventing a larger massacre. Arcatao and other resettled populations found international support vital, including the humanitarian work of individuals and organizations, and sister relationships with cities and churches around the world.

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