The Faces of the Murderers of Salvadoran Poet Roque Dalton

Jorge Dalton*

Roque Dalton

HAVANA TIMES — On May 14, my father, the poet Roque Dalton, was born in El Salvador. He was to become one of the great voices of 20th-century Latin American literature.

The murder of Roque Dalton is one of many cases that illustrate the sort of impunity that exists and will continue to exist in El Salvador for many years to come, as in the cases of the massacre of the Jesuit priests, the murder of Monsignor Romero and thousands of others that have not yet come to light or been set right. Both the Left and the Right have connived to keep the truth hidden.

With respect to my father’s case, two consecutive left-wing (FMLN) administrations – first our cowardly and cynical ex-president Mauricio Funes, then our current government, headed by Salvador Sanchez Ceren – have opted to do nothing and to continue to help conceal the facts and prevent the truth from coming to light.

I believe the FMLN Party has joined, or, better, has long been part of the “pact of silence” surrounding my father’s murderers. To add insult to injury, their government repulsively an shamelessly harbors a man like Jorge Melendez, former “JONAS” commander and ex-member of the FMLN, one of the confessed murderers of my father, who perpetrated the crime next to Joaquin Villalobos. They are directly responsible for the murder of poet Roque Dalton, worker Armando Arteaga and many other Salvadorians, gunned down on orders from these two criminal minds.

Jorge Melendez, one of the murderers of poet Roque Dalton, next to the former leader of the first Salvadorian left-wing party, Mauricio Funes.

A few years ago, my brother, the renowned Cuban novelist Eliseo Alberto Diego (popularly known as “Lichi”), wrote the following about the case:

“The coup de grace was aimed directly at Roque Dalton’s forehead, that afternoon at the court of blood-thirsty guerrillas that sentenced him to be executed by young men who, not knowing how to read, had learned his verses by memory.”

Jorge Melendez, one of the murderers of poet Roque Dalton, next to the current president of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

“The slim body of the great Salvadorian poet was buried somewhere in the jungle, under two inches of wet soil. His murderers now acknowledge this was a mistake, that they did not have more time to bury him in the depths of the planet.”

“Wretched are the guerillas who did not die in combat, for the mischievous ghost of Roque Dalton will haunt them to the end of days, until they are withered old men, scorned by their children. Like my father said of those who killed Federico Garcia Lorca: may God forgive them. I can’t.”

Joaquin Villalobos, former FMLN leader and the person most directly responsible for the murder of poet Roque Dalton, next to former Mexican President Raul Salinas de Gortari.

My family has no choice but to continue searching for the truth and for justice. Faced with our government’s refusal to clarify any of the facts, we have taken steps at the international level, before institutions such as the Inter-American Human Rights Court, and we are going to approach other entities, even Pope Francisco himself, if needed.

Here are the faces of those who murdered poet Roque Dalton, for you to help us divulge that they continue to live with impunity, the same way as many former military officers who served the dictatorships that brought death and tragedy to Latin America. They belong to the same species, speak the same language and act in the same fashion. They are part of the impunity afforded many criminals in this world.

(*) Cuban-Salvadoran filmmaker

7 thoughts on “The Faces of the Murderers of Salvadoran Poet Roque Dalton

  • Please note that the FMLN’s Joaquin Villalobos together with Mario Montoto. deputy to Mario Firmenich, head of the supposedly largest leftwing terrorist organization in Latin America but really belonging to the Argentine army’s 601 intelligence battalion were two of the left-wing “dirty warriors” promoted at the William Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies of U.S. Southern Command.


  • Thank you for that intriguing personal anecdote of your experience working for a Marxist-Leninist group. Let’s hope you learned something about radical Leftists and their propensity for murder.

    The glaring conclusion you failed to draw is that by working for LP-28, you might have been, indirectly, an accessory to this and other similar crimes.

    As generous as your offer might sound to you, the son of Roque Dalton might not want to meet with a man who worked for his father’s murderers.

  • You missed the key point of the article: Roque Dalton was murdered by the Leftist FLMN guerrillas. The FLMN was armed & funded by Castro. These are historical facts.

  • Dear Jorge, thank you for this article. I’m greatly saddened by your loss of your father, Roque. If I may, I’d like to say a few words about my own brief association with the organization with which your dad worked, in order to highlight one point regarding revolutionary work.

    In the early 1980s–here in Los Angeles, California–I went looking for a Salvadoran rebel group to assist. The group that apparently needed help was–as I recall one of its names–the LP-28, which had forces active in Morazan department.

    I worked with these comrades locally for perhaps two years, translating their program into English, and translating and subtitling three of their video films in English, plus helping to make 16mm prints for large audience distribution.

    One day a Salvadoran comrade asked me if I’d ever heard of Roque Dalton. I answered in the negative, and this rather surprised him. He then told me that Roque had been thought a police agent, and was executed for it.

    I still had no idea of what really had happened, but was impressed by the fact that someone of note could be killed by his comrades on what, it seemed to me at the time, rather flimsy grounds.

    I learned later on that the daughter of one of the leaders of another faction of the FMLN had been murdered, by being stabbed with an icepick multiple times. Her father later committed suicide.

    When I had first come into contact with the LP-28 people, my contact person was warned on the telephone that “the sharks bite everywhere.” This meant that he should be careful, for who really knows who might be a police agent.

    So, what is the point I’m trying to make? That the counter-revolution sends police agents into the revolutionary movement non-stop. These agents seem consistently to sow suspicion among the cadre, even to the point, in some cases, of falsely accusing comrades and arranging for their execution.

    Jorge, that whole revolutionary process in El Salvador was a bloody mess. There was so much injustice, so much butchery and murder, that your dad’s assassination kind of gets lost in the din. I hope you will continue to identify and excoriate Roque’s murders however, and somehow achieve a modicum of justice.

    If you are ever in the Los Angeles/Santa Monica area, you are welcome in my home. Cheers.

  • Brother Moses, All these murderers were supported by the country which wants to acquire the authority on Human Rights Abuses. Don’t get me wrong brother, I am not against America, I am against its Forked Tongue and Hypocritical Foreign Policies; its false propaganda, its Hitlerite policy of wanting to rule the world; its disrespect for the United Nations Charter which says that the sovereignty of every member state must be respected; that every member possesses the right to pursue the ideology best suited to its economic development. If the U N. Charter were to be respected, there would be no need for wars and rumours of wars. We would all be living in peace and harmony with each other. But you see, the capitalist vampire cannot exist unless it sinks its fangs into the natural resources and suck the blood of cheap labour of other countries. Sad to say, the country which fought its Colonial Master to gain its complete Independence, is now suppressing the same aspirations of other countries which want to fight their oppressors and chart a new course for their development. What say you brother Moses to my historical facts? Do not counter them with hysterical assertions. Counter them with historical facts.

  • He left beautiful poems to humanity. Those killers will be swallowed by the History’s dumpster

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