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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 02:37 GMT
El Salvador buries revolutionary
By Tom Gibb
BBC News, San Salvador

Up to 100,000 turned out for Schafik Handal's burial

An estimated 100,000 people have attended the funeral of one of Latin America's best-known revolutionary leaders, Schafik Handal.

The former commander of El Salvador's left-wing FMLN guerrillas died of a heart attack on Tuesday aged 75.

Delegations came from across Latin America for the funeral.

The crowd, perhaps the largest gathering in El Salvador in 25 years, chanted revolutionary slogans as they followed Handal's coffin.

The red shirts of the former guerrillas filled San Salvador's central square where the funeral mass was held, as well as the surrounding streets.

Schafik Handal was the main leader of the political party formed by El Salvador's left-wing guerrillas at the end of the civil war in 1992.

During the war he was a top guerrilla top commander, for 12 years defying the largest US-led counter-insurgency effort since Vietnam.

Before that he was a veteran of decades of clandestine struggle against one of Latin America's most brutal military dictatorships, suffering imprisonment and exile.

This, San Salvador's deputy archbishop Monsignor Rosa Chavez told the crowd, was his most important contribution.

He said Handal had wanted to be remembered as a fighter for democracy in his country, whose struggle to get the people of El Salvador the right to choose for themselves.

His death will leave a gap in the leadership of the former guerrillas and the main opposition party as they start campaigning for mid-term elections due to be held in March.


SEE ALSO:
Right wins El Salvador election
22 Mar 04 |  Americas
Left claims El Salvador victory
17 Mar 03 |  Americas
Country profile: El Salvador
16 Mar 04 |  Country profiles
Timeline: El Salvador
02 Jan 04 |  Country profiles


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