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A poet's death lingers bitterly in El Salvador

June 7, 2010 | 12:23 pm

Roque dalton

Who killed the celebrated Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton? And should those accused of executing him be brought to justice now, or be granted unofficial clemency under President Mauricio Funes' "philosophy of change"?

The questions are challenging El Salvador after a month of commemorations examining Dalton's legacy, reports L.A. Times special correspondent Alex Renderos from San Salvador. A "bitter and very public spat" emerged, reminding us that El Salvador's decades-long leftist resistance was never neat and unified. One of the fellow guerrillas believed to have ordered Dalton's killing for insubordination is now a senior member of the Funes administration, elected a year ago as El Salvador's first leftist government. 

Dalton's sons, a journalist and a filmmaker, are asking that prosecutors try Jorge Melendez and Joaquin Villalobos, two former members of the People's Revolutionary Army, or EPR, for the 1975 killing of their father. The Catholic Church in El Salvador and a university human rights institute are calling on the government to fully investigate the killing. Funes has said he won't dismiss Melendez.

The EPR eventually merged with other guerrilla groups to form the FMLN, which later morphed into a political party, and in 2009 led former journalist Funes to his election as president. Dalton, who once wrote, "To have faith is the best audacity and audacity is beautiful," would have turned 75 on May 14.

Read the story in The Times here.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times