Disappeared in El Salvador: The Return of a Cold War Nightmare

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On assignment for The Washington Post, Fred Ramos’ photography helps explore why disappearances are soaring in El Salvador

“Three decades after a brutal civil war characterized by never-explained, never-resolved disappearances, Salvadorans are again vanishing.

The phenomenon is resurrecting one of the most chilling elements of Cold War Latin America. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, tens of thousands of people disappeared as right-wing governments — many supported by the United States — fought to extinguish leftist insurgencies.

These days, countries such as Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador are battered by criminal wars. The governments aren’t fighting Marxist guerrillas, but gangs and drug cartels instead.

In Mexico, more than 3,000 clandestine gravesites have been unearthed as families search for the 40,000 missing. In El Salvador, few of the burial sites have been found. 

Which is why, when the government discovered one outside the capital last month, TV reporters rushed to the scene — and dozens of families began to wonder if their mystery would finally end.”