WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
15 Apr 2016 | Video

Digging for the Truth: Access to Information about Forced Disappearances in Wartime El Salvador

The Mauricio Aquino Foundation, the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington, the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) invite you to a discussion on

Digging for the Truth: Access to Information about Forced Disappearances in Wartime El Salvador


Sylvia Rosales-Fike
Director, the Mauricio Aquino Foundation

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy
Director, Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington

David Morales
Human Rights Ombudsman of El Salvador

And children survivors of forced disappearances:

Alexandra Aquino-Fike
Sara Aguilar
Jimmy Ortiz

Introduction by

Leonor Arteaga
Senior Program Officer, DPLF

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Butler Room
Washington, DC 20036

A delegation of Salvadoran-American children survivors of forced disappearances and human rights advocates from the United States and El Salvador is visiting Washington to provide Congress, the State Department, and the human rights community with current information and analysis on the situation of forced disappearances during the civil war in El Salvador and the state of impunity permeating the judicial system.

According to the UN-sponsored Truth Commission that examined human rights abuses during El Salvador’s brutal civil war in the 1980s, at least 5,500 people were forcibly disappeared. Non-governmental groups cite figures as high as 10,000 forced disappearances, none of which have ever been fully investigated or prosecuted. Today, with a new attorney general in office, and as El Salvador seeks to strengthen its criminal justice system and consolidate the rule of law, the question of whether it can address these unresolved cases and bring a measure of closure to families is critical.

At this reception, you will have the opportunity to meet the members of the delegation and hear an overview of the challenges El Salvador now faces on these issues, what actions they hope the Salvadoran government will take, and the role the U.S. government can play in assisting the families in their quest for justice and closure. The critical topic of the right to truth and declassification of files by the United States will be central to this event’s conversation.

The members of the delegation are:

Sylvia Rosales‐Fike, Director, and Co‐founder of the Mauricio Aquino Foundation (MAF), along with her daughter Alexandra Aquino-Fike. Sylvia is vice chair of the Board of Directors of MAF whose honorary chair is former President Jimmy Carter. Sylvia and Alexandra lead the development of the “Our Parents Bones” campaign for the finding of the truth and resolution of forced disappearances during the civil war in El Salvador. Sylvia arrived to the U.S. with her daughter 33 years ago, after her husband Mauricio Aquino Chacón was forcibly disappeared by government security forces. She is a former Executive Director of CARECEN in Washington, D.C. in which she created the “No Human Being is Illegal” campaign and obtained the collaboration of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel as the campaign’s co-chair. In association with President and Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, she also produced a series of off-the-record roundtables between high-level leaders of the guerrilla forces and governments of El Salvador and Guatemala to support the respective United Nations peace mediation process in 1990 and 1991.

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy, Director, Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington (UW CHR). Angelina is a Professor in Law, Societies, and Justice and the Jackson School of International Studies. She is the founding director of UW Center of Human Rights. Since 2011, the Center has sponsored the Unfinished Sentences project, a collaboration with Salvadoran human rights groups seeking justice in cases of crimes against humanity. Among other things, Unfinished Sentences has pursued the declassification of US government archives pertaining to human rights in the armed conflict in El Salvador; documented the 1981 massacre of Santa Cruz in a report and documentary; published the Yellow Book, the first Salvadoran military “enemies list” to be made public; and filed suit in 2015 against the Central Intelligence Agency for its failure to comply with its obligations under FOIA.

David Morales, Human Rights Ombudsman of El Salvador. David was appointed in 2013 by the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly to serve as director of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office. This entity was created as part of the peace accords to investigate and address complaints of human rights violations throughout the country. David has a long history in human rights advocacy and his past assignments include working as lead attorney in the Archdioceses of San Salvador’s human rights office Tutela Legal, where he was responsible for bringing the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s assassination by right‐wing death squads before the Inter‐American Human Rights Commission. Prior to that, he litigated several other cases of grave human rights violations.

Alexandra Aquino-Fike, Co-Founder of Mauricio Aquino Foundation, Daughter of a victim of forced disappearance. Alexandra Aquino-Fike is a senior executive in philanthropy, lawyer, and the co-founder of the Mauricio Aquino Foundation along with her mother, Sylvia Rosales-Fike. She serves as Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, which sponsors the Our Parents’ Bones campaign. Alexandra was only 21 months old when her father, Mauricio Aquino Chacón, was forcibly abducted by armed government soldiers from her home in the middle of the night. Neither Alexandra nor her mother Sylvia ever saw Mauricio again. Alexandra is the Vice President of Development at Hispanics in Philanthropy. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Jimmy Ortiz-Rodriguez, Human Rights Lawyer and nephew of two uncles, victims of forced disappearance.A human rights lawyer, Ortiz is pursuing legal action regarding the forced disappearances of his two uncles in El Salvador in 1981.  He has worked since 2007 with CODEFAM, the Committee of Relatives of Victims of Human Rights Violations. In addition, he was intern for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C. in 2015. He holds a degree in law from the University of El Salvador and is currently pursuing his masters in Human Rights and Education for Peace.

Sara Aguilar, Documentary Filmmaker, Editor, Director, and Daughter of a Disappeared Victim.Sara Aguilar was born in El Salvador and is now living in Los Angeles.  Her father was forcibly disappeared in 1981, when she was only 15 months old. Today, Sara works as a filmmaker in Los Angeles and seeks to challenge the representation of Latinas in film and highlights contributions made by underrepresented groups.  She has worked with organizations including Echo Parenting & Education, Justice for My Sister, El Puente Hacia La Esperanza, and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, among others.  Sara has a B.A. in World Arts and Cultures and a Master’s Degree in Education from University of California, Los Angeles.