SAN SALVADOR – Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes apologized to the nation’s indigenous peoples for the harm they have suffered over the past five centuries.
“The government that I lead wishes to be the first government that in the name of the Salvadoran state … makes an act of contrition and begs the pardon of the indigenous communities for the persecution, for the extermination of which they were victims for so many years,” Funes said on the 518th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas.
“From this day forward we officially terminate our historical denial of the diversity of our peoples and acknowledge El Salvador to be a
multiethnic and multicultural society,” he said in inaugurating the First National Indigenous Congress.
Funes recalled episodes of national history such as the first uprising of native people in the country, which took place in 1832, as a result of the “reigning model of oppression.”
He recalled that the uprising was “suffocated by repression and force” and that 100 years later, in 1932, “history repeated itself” and the government at the time “gave the same brutal, violent response to the requests of the native communities,” killing more than 32,000 people.
Funes installed a congress that will seek “the necessary consensus among representatives of indigenous peoples to constitute a National Committee to formulate public policies for that segment of the population,” his office said in a communique.
“With the work of this congress I am sure that we are taking another step toward acknowledging their rights,” he said.
Funes, the first leftist president in Salvadoran history, has previously apologized for the assassination three decades ago of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and for the estimated 75,000 people killed in the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.