SAN SALVADOR – Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes made a formal apology on Saturday to the victims of the 1980-1992 civil war and acknowledged that state security forces "committed serious human rights violations and abuses of power."
"I apologize in the name of the Salvadoran state," the leftist leader said in his address at an act of celebration for the peace pact signed 18 years ago.
Funes used the anniversary to announce the creation of separate commissions to offer redress for the victims, search for children who went missing and provide attention for those left disabled.
He also acknowledged that "state institutions, including the armed forces, the police and other state organizations, committed serious human rights violations and abuses of power."
"They employed an illegitimate use of violence, they broke the constitutional order and violated the basic rules of peaceful coexistence," he said, and named among the crimes committed "massacres, arbitrary executions, forced disappearances, torture, sexual abuse, arbitrary deprivation of freedom and different acts of repression."
"I acknowledge publicly the government's responsibility for these acts, both by commission and by omission, since it was and is the state's obligation to protect its citizens and guarantee their human rights," he said.
He said he hoped that this "will serve to dignify the victims, that it helps relieve their pain and contributes to healing their wounds and those of the entire nation."
"May this gesture contribute to strengthening the peace, consolidating the union and building a future of hope," the head of state said on the anniversary of the signing of the pact that ended the conflict that resulted in at least 75,000 deaths in the smallest country in the Americas.
Human rights organizations had called on the government to make a formal apology to the victims of the conflict, including civilians who died in massacres attributed to the army, as well for the murders of San Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 and of six Jesuits and two other people in 1989.
On Jan. 16, 1992, then-President Alfredo Cristiani and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, a former guerrilla organization that is now El Salvador's ruling party, signed the peace pact in Mexico.
Meanwhile Funes' vice president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, also apologized Saturday, specifically for the FMLN's guerrilla actions in the civil war, and made a call to "overcome the deficiencies" of the accord 18 years after the peace was signed.
"To all the victims of the conflict, to all their families, to their sons and daughters, the FMLN asks their pardon, and apologizes to all the Salvadoran people affected by our military action," said Vice President Ceren, the only member of the old rebel high command that still remains in the party.
According to humanitarian organizations, the Salvadoran civil war left some 8,000 missing and 12,000 disabled.