Soldiers stole children during El Salvador's war
According to Contreras and other sources, she, her siblings and nine other children were seized in 1982 as the U.S.-trained anti-guerrilla Atlacatl battalion clashed with rebels. A helicopter took away the boys, while the girls were driven away in trucks.
Army Pvt. Miguel Angel Molina ended up with Contreras and later registered her as his own daughter in the western Salvadoran town of Santa Ana, according to the Inter-American court, which also found that he had raped her.
‘‘(The situation) put her in a state of extreme vulnerability that aggravated her suffering, acts of violence that she suffered during almost 10 years, that is to say, between the ages of 4 until 14 years,’’ the court ruling says. Molina later committed suicide.
The court found the Salvadoran government was responsible for the abductions of not just Contreras but also of her two siblings — Serapio Cristian, who was 20 months old at the time of his kidnapping, and Julia Ines Contreras, who was 4 months old. The court also found the government responsible for the abductions of three other children who were between the ages of 3 and 14.
‘‘That soldier stole everything from me,’’ Contreras said. ‘‘He took away my parents, he took away my siblings, he took away my identity. I couldn’t live like a girl because he never gave me the love of a father and he was always abusing me, even raping me. I was only 10-years old and I couldn’t do anything.’’
Victims and investigators said justice won’t be completely served until El Salvador’s government carries out the entirety of the court’s orders.
That includes accepting responsibility for the abductions of Contreras and the five others mentioned in the court ruling, and investigating those believed responsible. El Salvador has also been ordered to locate the four in the group of missing still unaccounted for, provide medical and psychological support to the victims, issue a public apology, name schools after those abducted and open government archives about the history.
In an Oct. 29 ceremony attended by Contreras, then-Foreign Minister Martinez Hugo Martinez fulfilled part of the order. He asked for forgiveness from ‘‘hundreds of Salvadoran families who were victims of the forced disappearances of boys and girls’’ and ‘‘who suffered the infinite pain of being hit by the disappearances of their most beloved and vulnerable people.’’
Yet Contreras’ sister has never been found, and despite promises by the country’s Foreign Ministry to name schools after victims, it hasn’t indicated when it will start doing that.
The armed forces remain the chief obstacle to justice, said Miguel Montenegro, director of the nonprofit Human Rights Commission.
‘‘Here, there’s a strong power, a power exercised by old members of the armed forces,’’ Montenegro said.
For Contreras, the quest for truth has been long, bitter and incomplete.
She eventually escaped Molina and stayed with one of his relatives. With the help of another of Molina’s relatives, Contreras settled in Guatemala.
Her parents found her in 2006 after they appealed to Guatemalan officials and Probusqueda. Just recently, she reunited with her brother, who was also abducted and given to a soldier’s relative. She’s started her own family.
But Contreras remains distant from her parents and has yet to find her sister.
‘‘I recovered my identity,’’ Contreras said. ‘‘The other Gregoria doesn’t exist. I have my husband and my children. I don’t want anything more.’’