El Salvador. It is where Ronald Reagan said he would “draw a line in the sand” against communism before it reached our very doorstep. Mounting atrocities, perpetrated by a regime that US tax dollars were propping up, outraged people of conscience in the United States – and compelled us to militant action. Tens of thousands of US activists responded immediately. We knew which side of Reagan’s line we needed to be on: on the side with those fighting for a democratic revolution.
Founded by conventions in Los Angeles and Washington, DC in October of 1980, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) grew into a powerful national grassroots solidarity organization.
El Salvador first made international headlines with the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero on March 24, 1980. With growing impunity, the U.S.-backed government resorted to massacres and death squad attacks aimed at a surging popular movement attached to a small, but growing, nucleus of armed revolutionary groups.
In February 1980, when Romero heard that President Jimmy Carter was considering sending millions of dollars a day in military aid to El Salvador, Romero was shocked. Deeply distressed, he wrote a long public letter to Carter, asking the United States to cancel all military aid. Carter never responded to Romero, and sent the aid.
A precursor to CISPES, the U.S. Friends of the BPR was founded in the Bay Area in the late 1970s (the BPR was El Salvador’s largest popular movement coalition at the time – the Bloque Popular Revolutionario.) The group later changed its name to Friends of the Salvadoran Revolution and members were present at the founding CISPES convention in Los Angeles.