A Corrupted Military

Luis Bonilla

Professor Rojo

CAS 155 9:30am

December 7, 2010

A Corrupted Military

In the novel, One Day of Life written by Manilo Argueta shows the struggles of a family in El Salvador that have to deal with the corruption in their military.  Manilo Argueta has written this book to translate some of the horrors that the civil war in El Salvador had caused.  Horrors that have led to many of El Salvador’s people death.  El Salvador’s own military was corrupted, brained washed, they began going against their own people, showing no mercy.  The novel shows how corrupted the world was in that time in El Salvador.  A movie, just as similar to the novel, is a great visual example of what had happened in those dark days in El Salvador.  As well as some of my father’s experience, reasons why he left El Salvador and come live in the United States.  There are still people who are trying to heal from this vicious time.  How it left many people’s lives destroyed and with nothing left to offer.  I believe that the military had a lot to do in this time.  Instead of helping the people in their country, they spread fear in the hearts of their citizens.  The novel, One Day of Life by Manilo Argueta, introduces the struggles of one huge family that must fight against their corrupted military.

There was a lot of turmoil and terror going on in those horrific days for the citizens of El Salvador.  El Salvador’s civil war began around 1980 where an organization of Salvadorians known as the Guerilleros, stood up against the government and the corrupted military.  There had already been a lot of violence during the time between these two groups.  It was said that this was one of the longest battles in the whole Latin America.  The Civil War lasted around fourteen years; thousands of innocent civilians were killed at this horrific time.  These were the dark days in El Salvador.

The novel One Day of Life is about a families struggle to survive against a corrupted nations military.  The story starts off with the main character, Guadalupe, waking up and remembering how she is afraid of the darkness.  She then begins remembering stories of when she was a little girl and when she first met her husband Jose.  The beginning mainly circles around stories and adventures that Guadalupe and her generations have gone through.  Later in the story, she begins talking about the authorities and the military, and how they have all been brained washed and how her people have suffered from these men.  She tells stories of how her grand daughter escaped the horrors of those men.  She also talks about the times she has been beaten up by a boy she new when he was only a toddler.  Towards the end the corrupted men come to her house in search of her great grand daughter Adolfina.  Adolfina was not home, so she continued telling stories of her life.  Adolfina later comes and they are asked if they know this man, who was on the verge of dying.  Adolfina did not recognize him, but Guadalupe then realized that it was her Husband Jose.  In the end, the men take him away and they go inside, Guadalupe knowing that Jose can finally rest in peace from those vicious men.

In the novel, the whole military has been corrupted because they have gone against the people they had to protect.  The people from village were frightened of the military because they had gone against them.  Maria Romelia, grand daughter of Guadalupe was on her way to a city called Chalate when they were stopped by the men who were suppose to serve and protect the people, “So, once we’d gotten off we put our hands on the bus and spread our legs; but they didn’t search us.  They started shooting” (Argueta 38).  The men began shooting for no reason, just to scare off the people.  To spread more fear in those that already feared the military.  Another occasion where the military had gone against their people is when the captured and tortured a man by the name of Helio.  “He was captured by the National Guard.  They picked him up and tortured him; they hit him with rifle butts on the back and on the head” (Argueta 66).  Showing how the citizens were being mistreated by their own people, as if they had done something wrong, or if they were some sort of enemy or threat to them.

There are a lot more reasons why readers have the right to believe that the military has brain washed people of the community.  As the story goes on, so does the fear that spreads through the people and the corruption of these men.  A boy by the name of William is hanging out with guards for no reason.  He is only a boy, so he does not know much until the military eventually gets to his head.  “I went to the park to sit on a bench, there in front of the jail, when I saw that William was coming out, a boy who likes to accompany the guard – I wonder why?” (Argueta 69).  There is no reason why a boy should be hanging around men who in which are much older and powerful than he is.  There is not much to believe he is some sort of slave, but there is a chance that the military had maybe brained washed the boy.  Later, William is shouting to Maria Pia’s father in law, shouting, “Aha! You old son of a bitch, now we’re really going to cut off your balls” (Argueta 74).  Strong and harsh words coming from the mouth of a boy is something almost unheard of.  He has either always been like that, or the military has gotten to him and created a little monster.  There is a lot to believe that the people of the community are being brain washed by the military.

The movie, Voces innocentes directed by Luis Mandoki has similarities to the novel One Day of Life.  There are many similarities between this movie and the novel; in fact they are exactly alike only with different endings.  In Voces Innocentes, a boy named Chava and his mother are poor and are trying to survive the war in El Salvador, very much alike the novel.  In the film, the mother would always help hide her son from the military, because they would always come and take any child that was the age of 11 or older and put them in the military.  Chava and his friends decide to runaway from their home to join a group of men and try to over rule these corrupted men.  He gets captured but he eventually escapes.  Two of his friends were killed by the military, believing they were some kind of threat to them.  Towards the  end of the movie, the boy reunites with his mother and go back home.  At the end, the mother sends Chava on a journey to the United States, where she believes it is a better place for her son to be at.  All in all, these two stories have a lot of similarities.

In the film Voces Innocentes, the community lives in fear of the military because of the way they are being treated.  The film portrays the civil war in El Salvador, where the military seeks and hurts the people of the community.  At one point of the movie, the military goes out hunting for children that have reached the age of 11 to take for the war.  One of Chava’s friends gets taken away by the military soldiers while school was in session.  He later then reunites with him and for some reason; he becomes vicious and seems like all he wants to do is destroy.  When he was taken away, he was seen crying, scared, and worried what will happen to him, he is just a little boy.  Now, he has become a killing machine produced by the military.  He is now brained washed by the men who are supposed to protect the community.  As the film goes on, the military goes and takes a priest that helps Chava escape.  We see the priest and the men go into some sort of wrecked house, and we hear a gun shot.  The priest is killed by the military.  The military went of killing a man that does not fight.  The film Voces Innocentes shows the corruption of the military as in the novel.

The military in Central American countries has most often been as violent as they are in the novel.  There have always been issues with the Central American military.  In an article from the Journal of Democracy, they say that, “The military traditionally has been a politically powerful obstacle to democratization in Central America” (Ruhl 137-151).  This meaning that they have always had power and had control of what goes on in the country they are serving, including El Salvador.  In the novel, we acknowledge the fact that the military has power over the citizens.  Only some decide to fight back, but in the end they are brought down by the corrupted men.  Some military men from these Central American countries still do not put their power to good use.  “Military officers also have not yet been held fully accountable to the rule of law” (Ruhl 137-151).  With this said, they are still some that do not believe in this new democracy and still wish to cause chaos.  Central American military still continues to cause chaos.

Although the military was corrupted back then, the government from Central America is beginning to make changes.  Governments from some Central American countries are beginning to make changes in these militaries.  From the Journal of Democracy, Ruhl states that “In a little more than a decade, however, democratically elected leaders in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala have curbed the military’s influence and largely subordinated it to civilian control” (Ruhl 137-151).  Meaning that they have chosen these “leaders” in which are suppose to straighten out the military and stop corruption in these countries of Central America.  In other words, they will be cleaning up the mess that the past leaders have done.  Still, it is a very hard job to clean the minds of those that have been corrupted.  “Nevertheless, the process of democratizing civil-military relations in the region remains incomplete” (Ruhl 137-151).  It will take years to clean up the mind of those who have been corrupted.  In the end, leaders in certain countries of Central America are beginning to make changes in their military.

Today, there are still many problems with armed forces invading other countries and killing community members.  In an Article by Susan Fitzpatrick Behrens called Nickel for Your Life: Q’eqchi’ Communities Take On Mining Companies in Guatemala, a mining company called CGN (Guatemala Nickel Company) has invaded Guatemala and that security forces have killed a man, “Community members report that CGN’s security forces kidnapped and killed Adolfo Ich Xaman, a local teacher and community leader, and gravely injured eight others” (Behrens).  This is similar to what had happened in the novel.  Some people from the novel were killed by the corrupted military.  Like Helio, he was captured and taken hostage by the military.  Finally, they kill him.  Also the military from El Salvador has injured and many of their people as well.  “Ticha’s son told me, and the kick caught me in the back.  They whipped me about twenty times more” (Argueta 73).  In the end, the manslaughter continues in some countries of Central America.

My father, who in which was born in El Salvador during the time of the civil war, had to make the decision of moving to the United States because of the military.  My father, like many others lived in fear of the military.  He was frightened of what was going on, so he made the decision to come to the United States.  He had said that he felt a lot more comfortable leaving El Salvador, but it was painful to leave his brothers behind.  He knew he had to leave because he was running a risk on getting taken or beaten up by the military.  He had lived in fear for too long, so he decided to follow my uncle to the United States.  My father had to make a big decision, whether to leave El Salvador and get his freedom, or stay and live in fear of the government.

I believe from reading the novel, One Day of Life, there was something strange on how the military acted with their civilians.  These men had no idea of what they were doing to the people of El Salvador.  Why would they go against their own people?  It is hard to believe that these monsters were from a country that was brained washed to attack their own innocent people.  Then, we must understand that these men were once people as well.  In the novel, there is a man in which appears to be telling a loved one his experience in the military.  He explains that for the first time, he ate with silver ware, “We’d never eaten with knife and for; the luxury is unimaginable.  Well, we had only eaten with wooden spoons, the kind we make ourselves” (Argueta 90).  They were once poor as well; they use to make their own utensils as most poor citizens from that time.  These people had lives and were they were taken away from that life and put into a new one.  As the different foods they were served, there was a Chinese man who kept saying that this was food for gods, and he would feed it to them.  As if he is trying to make these humble men believe that they were some sort of god.  Towards the end of this chapter, the man says, “The thing is, all civilians are shit, brother; you’re no exception.  They envy our uniforms, the fact that we’ve gotten ahead in life” (Argueta 90).  Finally, he has changed his tone of voice and we can assume that something has happened to him, and we also understand that he is having this conversation with a brother of his.  In the end, it is simple to believe that these men have been corrupted by the military to act the way they have against their own people.

All in all, the novel One Day of Life, written my Manilo Argueta shows the problems that the military produces to one poor family in El Salvador.  There is no doubt that there was something wrong with the military in El Salvador.  Not only does the novel show it, but in many articles as well.  The people of this community were being destroyed by their own people.  These military men were completely corrupted, and still nothing was done to fix this problem.  In the end, Manilo Argueta shows the struggles that a poor family had to face, against a corrupted military in El Salvador.

Works Cited

Argueta, Manilo. One Day of Life. El Salvador: UCA Editores, 1980. Print

Behrens, Susan Fitzpatrick. Nickel for Your Life: Q’eqchi’ Communities Take On Mining     Companies in Guatemala. New York: NACLA Research Associate, 2009. Print

Curbing Central America’s Militaries. Journal of Democracy – Volume 15, Number 3, July 2004,      pp. 137-151. Print

Mandoki, Luis, Dir. Voces Inocentes. Dir. Luis Mandoki.” Perf. Padilla , Carlos. 2004, Film.

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