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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: May 2019

6 - Solidarity and Discord in the Labor Movement, 1984–1989


Shortly before 3:00 AM on June 2, 1985, several men carried a person in a stretcher past a picket line and into the emergency room of a San Salvador hospital. Once inside, they pulled out guns and pointed them at doctors, nurses, and employees of the hospital. The gunmen were plainclothes members of the Policía Nacional on a mission to evict the strikers who had occupied the premises for nearly a month. Chaos ensued as soldiers barged through the barricades. Imagining a guerrilla assault, the police opened fire. In the ensuing firefight, four policemen were killed. The soldiers grabbed doctors, nurses, and paramedics and forced them face down on the floor. The soldiers tied them up and then combed through the hospital searching for “arms.” In the process, they removed babies, so they could search their cribs. They found no arms; doctors claimed that a patient suffered cardiac arrest during the shooting and they couldn’t help her because their hands were literally tied. At 5:00 AM, Colonel Enzo Rubio, Chief of Department III of the police force, triumphantly turned over the hospital to its director, Dr. Jorge Bustamante. They carted away four union leaders. Troops raided 25 other hospitals and clinics as part of the anti-strike effort.1