SAN SALVADOR — Miguel Marmol, a Communist revolutionary who helped plan the 1932 peasant uprising that led to one of the bloodiest chapters of Salvadoran history and foreshadowed the war that would come to define modern El Salvador, has died. He was 87.
Marmol, who faced a firing squad for his guerrilla activities but lived to tell about it, died of pneumonia Thursday, according to members of the Salvadoran Communist Party, which he founded.
Marmol was the last survivor of a handful of leftist leaders, chief among them Agustin Farabundo Marti, who worked to organize peasants and laborers in El Salvador in the 1920s. In 1932, with a worldwide economic crisis eroding the livelihood of El Salvador's coffee planters, Marmol, Farabundo Marti and others planned a massive \o7 campesino \f7 uprising against the dictatorial government of Gen. Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez.
Last-minute confusion over timing, however, led to disaster. Marmol and the other leaders were arrested, and when their followers, armed with machetes, tried to push ahead with the insurrection, government troops mowed them down.
The government unleashed a brutal campaign to eliminate any person who might be remotely sympathetic to the Communists or to the peasants' cause. The killings became known as \o7 La Matanza\f7 (The Massacre). It is estimated that 24,000 to 30,000 people were killed in a week.
Eighteen leaders of the failed insurrection were arrested and put before firing squads. Marmol was put against the wall Jan. 24 but survived--one of several close calls he had throughout his colorful life. Grazed by at least two bullets, he was able to feign death, hiding beneath the bodies of his comrades until the troops left.
"The firing squad shot seven times," Marmol recently told a television station. "The fourth shot got me in the chest, and the seventh got me in the head. I fell. But minutes later I was still alive. The blood was in my mouth and made me want to cough. But I had to suppress the cough to appear dead."
As the soldiers approached the mound of bodies to finish off any survivors, one of Marmol's dying companions shouted, "Long live the Communist Party!" Another shouted, "Death to Gen. Hernandez Martinez!"
"I wanted to shout too," Marmol said. "But I held myself back."
He was the only survivor. For several years, he lived on the run. Through the decades, he spent time in prison, in exile and working with the Communist Party in other parts of Latin America.
In the 1970s, when another leftist uprising would begin in El Salvador, guerrillas took the name of Marmol's slain comrade, Farabundo Marti, for their organization. Marmol did not fight with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, which waged war against a series of U.S.-backed governments through the 1980s until peace came last year. But he worked on the group's behalf to raise support internationally.