The gruesome murders of Francisco Antonio Manzanares y Juana Monjarás de Manzanares in their home in Suchitoto, Cuscatlan have bolstered rumors of renewed death-squad activity in El Salvador. The parents of Marina Manzanares, a well known FMLN militant and co-founder of the legendary Radio Venceremos, were tortured for hours in their home on the morning of Sunday June 2. Their bodies were found slashed and bleeding. Lye had been carefully spread on the victim’s faces and there were signs of a failed attempt to set the room afire.
The killings have terrorized locals in this normally tranquil village 60 miles northeast of San Salvador. On Sunday and Monday, neither reporters nor police could find anyone who had heard anything about the murders, much less witnessed them.
Daughter Marina, known as "Mariposa" during her days as commentator for the FMLN’s clandestine Radio Veneceremos station, said that the family had been the target of multiple death threats in recent months. She reported that last week a box of bones arrived at her parent’s home with a note that said, "This is how you’ll receive your daughters’ bones."
The family is no stranger to homicidal violence at the hands of state authorities: Marina’s brother, Paco Cutumay (of the famed musical group Cutumay Camones) was one of the first political prisoners of the 1980-1992 Civil War. He was later killed by PNC agents in 1996.
FMLN Deputy Manuel Melgar stressed that the murders, "represent an act of organized crime with political motives, because "Mariposa" was a programmer for Radio Venceremos and has never vacillated from being a very courageous and revolutionary woman."
FMLN Communications Secretary, Sigfrido Reyes, agreed. "This is a crime that revisits all of the markings of the crimes committed by the death squads back in the old times of the military dictatorship and the years of the armed conflict."
"We sound an alert that [in these murders] there is the modus operandi of the death squads."
For their part, police attribute the murder to a common robbery. Although their story contradicts the family’s, police say that valuables were taken from the Manzanares home. One agent who wouldn’t give his name, admitted to the local press that brutal assassinations were unusual for Suchitoto, robbery or not. Police and locals both agreed that there has been a recent rise in crime, but complained that at the hour of investigations, few people were willing to come forward as witnesses or testify in open court.
But high profile-even ostentatious-killings have struck fear into potential witnesses. Killers in the San Salvador neighborhood of Antiguo Cuscatlan used high caliber automatic weapons in a recent open air massacre that left five people dead. Police estimate that the primary target of the bloodbath was a young woman who was to testify in an upcoming murder trial. A popular street vendor and her two pre-teen children were also killed.