YELLOW BOOK CASE STUDY: América Recinos “R133” and ANDES 21 de junio
The National Association of Salvadoran Educators is a professional association of teachers founded in 1965. Today ANDES represents 70% of teachers in the country.[i] Though a legal organization, ANDES’ leftist orientation made it a target of the Salvadoran security forces during the civil war.
On August 14, 1982, forces of the Treasury Police detained dozens of teachers at an ANDES meeting in San Salvador. Declassified U.S. Embassy cables report the arrest of 26 people, including Maria Lidia Escalante de Serrano, wife of the Undersecretary of Education, noting, “observers suspect the arrests are a calculated attack on the [Christian Democrat Party] and that Mrs. Serrano and most, if not all, of the arrested persons are innocent of everything except possibly belonging to the leftist-oriented but legal Andes teachers union.” [ii] Maria Lidia Escalante de Serrano is listed twice in the Yellow Book, at E22 and E35 (pp. 101, 104, 105).
Blanca América Recinos de Burgos, a Salvadoran teacher and activist now living in Canada (no relation to Héctor Recinos), was among those arrested. Ms. Recinos recently reviewed the Yellow Book, recognizing her own entry (R133, pp. 218, 228) as well as several other individuals, including her first husband José Dimas Alas Alfaro (A202, pp. 30, 48), a political activist with the Salvadoran Communist Party and the Popular Liberation Forces who was killed by the Treasury Police in 1973 alongside Jose Ernesto Morales Nunez (M130, pp. 166, 178).
In an interview for this publication, Ms. Recinos described the abuse and torture that the arrested teachers were subjected to during their detention by the Treasury Police.
For the first week, I was verbally and psychologically abused. I could hear my 6-year-old daughter next door screaming to stop this. I later figured out that they used a fake recording. In the confusion one would believe it was their own child. During the remaining 10 days we were all tortured. At the Police headquarters, they would run a tortilla mill at night to muffle the screams of tortured prisoners. Once we heard the mill going on we knew it was time to be tortured. During those sessions they would hit me all over, they pushed my nails up as if to trying to detach them from the skin and they would drug us so we were totally disoriented.”
In the midst of her detention and torture, Ms. Recinos recalls her captors commenting, “These old whores aren’t even young, but we can’t kill them because of the international pressure.
We were held there for 17 days. At the end, half of us were released and another half, men and women, were taken to the “Carcel de mujeres” or “Mariona.” We were held, tied up and blindfolded at all times, for more than two weeks. After so many days without washing we stunk. Mario [Mario Gonzalez Medrano, “Phase A” D14, pp. 10, 15] was so badly abused that he could not walk and only crawled to us in the place they held us while not torturing us. “America, I did not say a word about Dimas…” he would whisper to me. He was atrociously tortured and his health was precarious. They gave him tons of drugs…Mario was one of those sent to Mariona and would die several years later due to the effects of torture. …I was released in late 1983 under a general amnesty and took refuge in [Canada].
In total, 11 people listed in the Yellow Book are tagged as members of ANDES. All are also tagged in association with popular or revolutionary organizations including the PCS, BPR, FPL, and FAL; most are classified simply as “members” of suspect organizations or as “political” targets.
The ANDES cases illustrate the Yellow Book’s use as a tool for politically-motivated persecution and the systematic torture of detainees in Police custody.
[ii] See Digital National Security Archive:
- Item number ES03376: Arrest of Subsecretary of Education Serrano’s Wife Confidential, Cable San Salvador, Excised Copy, 07003, August 26, 1982, 2 pp.
- Item number ES03901: Disappearances and Detentions (ANDES Teachers) Unclassified, Cable State, 087121, March 30, 1983, 2 pp.