University of Washington publishes investigation into alleged blacklist belonging to El Salvador’s Army – by Daniel Valencia (EL FARO)

This article was published on 30 September 2014.


There are almost 2,000 names of people included in this document known as the Yellow Book containing information from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The research about this document is already on line, freely available. It shows that more than 70 percent of those listed as enemies of the regime were eventually victims of arrest, torture, forced disappearance and murder.

The Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington (UWCHR) published on 28 September, its investigation into the “Yellow Book,” a confidential document allegedly put together by El Salvador’s armed forces. In 43 percent of cases, the people suffered torture, forced disappearance, or murder.

In the book, an entry comes with names and photographs of around 2,000 Salvadorans. Most of the former guerrilla commanders are registered, including El Salvador’s current president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén. Furthermore, the book brings together information about political opponents linked to political parties running against the military regime: leaders of professional organizations, trade unionists and even human rights defenders. “So you can identify your enemies,” is blazoned on the front cover of the book. It would have been distributed through intelligence offices of the state security forces. The book is now open for free public consultation and can be consulted using this link.

The Yellow Book contains entries for 1,975 Salvadorans and as El Faro reported on 22 September, was discovered in 2011. Subsequently it was analyzed and compared against databases about complaints documented by three non-governmental human rights organizations in El Salvador. Among these are the databases from the disbanded Judicial Aid Office of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, the non-governmental Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Truth Commission.

The UWCHR analysis includes declassified cables from the CIA and the United States Department of State, among these is evidence of strong collaboration between Ronald Reagan’s government and El Salvador’s military to strengthen antisubversive spy networks.

The organizations that undertook the investigation checked the names from the Yellow Book against the historical databases of reports of human rights violations compiled from the period 1980 to 1992. In this process they discovered that 273 names from the Yellow Book – some fifteen percent – were “matched with reports of deaths or extrajudicial executions; 233 or thirteen percent matched against reports of forced disappearance; 274, or fifteen percent linked to reports of torture; and 538, or twenty-nine percent with reports of detentions or arrests. At least forty-three percent of the total names included in the Yellow Book match with those in the historical databases.”

“The report, called The Yellow Book, is the first confidential military document from El Salvador to be made public. It is also the only evidence to come from the official archives of El Salvador’s army about the methods of surveillance using security forces and directed against Salvadorans during the twelve years of civil war,” says the UWCHR.

Journalist Daniel Valencia reports for El Faro in El Salvador. Follow him on Twitter @dvalencia. This article appeared under the title “Universidad de Washington libera investigación sobre presunta lista negra del ejército salvadoreño” and is available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

About Michael Lettieri

Program Officer at the Trans-Border Institute

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