What Is Chris Hayes Talking About?

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I was puzzled by the “country where said rebels now run the government,” since I had trouble thinking of a Latin American country that fit the description. A little digging reveals that the opinion in question deals with El Salvador, where a devastating civil war between 1979 and 1992 killed 80,000 people and displaced more than a million. Of course, civil wars don’t kill people, people kill people. In this case, “the rebels” (the Farbundo Martí National Liberation Front, or FMLN) were responsible for 5% of war crimes while the US-backed Salvadoran state was responsible for 85%.

Hayes makes it sound like a band of brigands took over and now rules without constraint. In point of fact, the FMLN is now one of the two major political parties in El Salvador. Their candidate, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, won a contested presidential election in 2014. It is hardly unheard of in Latin America for former guerrillas to enter politics following peace accords. Hayes’s rebels “run the country” to the same extent that Dilma Rousseff (who also once took up arms against a right-wing dictatorship) was the military dictator of Brazil.

All of this is unimportant relative to the ICE fascism which Hayes has, to his credit, drawn attention. But it is frustrating to me that even someone at the leftmost edge of the US-media still talks about Latin America in such vague, exoticizing ways. He doesn’t mention the name of the country, much less bother to learn anything about the FMLN. Instead he conjures up inscrutably bloodthirsty rebels in the mist, an image he and his readers instinctively associate with Latin America even if they cannot match a specific country to the trope.

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