However, the government at that time saw them as part of the enemy; thus, in the context of the guerilla offensive, they decided to silence them. An elite, U. The killings shocked the world and drew more international attention to the situation of the country, which subsequently led to the signing of the Peace Accords in I n an unprecedented development that was just announced, the government of El Salvador has requested that the Secretary General of the United Nations grant access to the archives of the Truth Commission in relation to the Jesuit case.
The Murder of Six Jesuits One Year After: Interview with Father José Tojeira
In its final report in March of , the Truth Commission for El Salvador attributed the intellectual authorship of the massacre to the highest members of the civil and military hierarchy : then-President Alfredo Cristiani and the ex-Minister of Defense, Rafael Humberto Larios. Consequently, the Truth Commission recommended a complete and impartial investigation. The agreement was incorporated into the Chapultepec Peace Accords that were finalized and signed on January 16, Whether for judicial purposes or the purposes of historical memory, Salvadorian and international experts have reiterated how important this occasion is for the United Nations to ensure access to the Truth Commission archives.
The formal petition with respect to the Jesuit case provides that opportunity. Criminal investigations. Family members and members of the UCA Jesuit community have been searching for official recognition of truth and justice for years. Given that the Jesuits were Spanish citizens and the crime is considered a crime against humanity, they have sought an investigation of those most responsible for the crime in both El Salvador and in Spain.
In , a case was filed in the domestic court system of El Salvador later closed based on a statute of limitations argument and in a case was filed in Spain. In the United States, the U. Supreme Court upheld a judicial decision to grant a request by the Spanish government to extradite Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano to Spain to be tried for the murders of the six priests in El Salvador. ORDEN forces have probably been used for this purpose in the past and may be utilized in certain instances again.
Generally, he speaks against Yankee imperialism, he speaks against the oligarchy, he speaks against military men. We can spot them easily. Lozano, Jr. If you are against [the ruling powers], or if you disapprove of what they are doing, they label you a Communist. As former U. Ambassador to El Salvador Raul H. Medrano acknowledged: In this revolutionary war, the enemy comes from our people.
They are traitors to the country. What can the troops do? When they find them, they kill them. In July of the Sandinistas overthrew the fifty-year dictatorship of the Somoza family; and on January 10, , the week before Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president, revolution broke out in El Salvador. Three weeks before Reagan took office, Duarte told a New York Times reporter why he thought the guerrillas were fighting the government: Fifty years of lies, fifty years of injustice, fifty years of frustration.
This is a history of people starving to death, living in misery. For fifty years the same people had all the power, all the money, all the jobs, all the education, all the opportunities. Patricia M.
EL SALVADOR: Spanish Judge to Investigate Murders of Jesuit Priests | Inter Press Service
This is especially true of El Salvador. Even the excesses of the despotic, venal Somoza clan in Nicaragua pale in comparison with the brutal, starvation existence imposed on the Salvadoran campesinos and workers by the economic and military elites. To maintain and increase their margin of profits, they repress the people. To raise the question of the rights of the poor is to call into question the whole established order.
That is why they have no other category for us but that of subversives. There is still time to take the rings from their fingers before they lose the hand. Let them not keep on silencing with violence the voice of those of us who offer this invitation. Let them not keep on killing those of us who are trying to achieve a more just sharing of the power and wealth of our country. I speak in the first person, because this week I received notice that I am on the list of those who are to be eliminated next week.
But let it be known that no one can any longer kill the voice of justice. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is time to take back your consciences and to obey them rather than sinful orders In the name of God and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven each day more loudly, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression! At his funeral six days later, Salvadoran Security Forces fired without warning on the crowd of mourners gathered on the cathedral steps.
Thirty-nine people were killed and over wounded. Reagan, El Salvador was part of a global, East-West struggle, and the problems of the country were caused not primarily by poverty and repression but by the encroachments of international Communism. Our credibility would collapse, our alliances would crumble and the safety of our homeland would be put in jeopardy. However, both American and Salvadoran officials eventually acknowledged that they had no solid evidence in that Cuba or Nicaragua not to mention the Soviet Union were supplying military aid to the Salvadoran insurgents.
Three of its four authors went on to serve the Reagan administration: Lt. General Gordon Sumner, Jr. This belief has induced the Carter Administration to participate actively in the toppling of non-Communist authoritarians while remaining passive in the face of Communist expansion. Unfortunately, Marxist-Leninist forces have utilized the weapon against private property and productive capitalism by infiltrating the religious community with ideas that are less Christian than Communist.
William F. Buckley made the point when he recalled a conversation he had once had with Mr. Abrams said that what he would do would be to cool it. All of this might be quite humorous, were it not for the fact that people in Central America get murdered when such absurdities, sworn to under oath and appearing in the Congressional Record, are repeated in army barracks in places like El Salvador.
Now, as it turns out, Sister Maura Clarke was not in or even near Nicaragua during the revolution. She spent those three-and-a-half years from January through June entirely in the United States, interrupted by only a brief family visit to Ireland. True, in August of her Maryknoll superiors sent Maura Clarke to El Salvador to help refugees who were fleeing army sweeps and death squad activities in the northern province of Chalatenango. After she had worked only a few weeks with the refugees, Col. Jeanne J.
Haig was suggesting the nuns were shooting back at the soldiers, Wild-West fashion, after they had crashed their van through a military checkpoint—even though, as Secretary Haig well knew, the evidence showed that the nuns were first raped, and then were shot point-blank, one of them in the chest and three of them in the back of the head. And so it has. Much if not all of the story is there.
For example, the U. At least of those victims were children under the age of 5, and 32 of them were less than a year old. Soldiers of this elite, U.
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In the months following the slaughter at El Mozote, the Legal Trustee Office of the archdiocese of San Salvador verified that government forces or death squads had committed 2, political murders in the first four months of Two months later, Americas Watch reported that the number of victim had risen to 2, by July 1, Within months of the murder the U. In mid-November of , a particularly brave and resourceful American diplomat made contact with a Salvadoran military officer who had participated in the plot to kill Archbishop Romero.
This officer was present at the March 22nd meeting which resulted in the death of Archbishop Romero on March The Salvadoran officer informant was disappointed that the luck of the draw had not favored him. He gave bullets from his gun to the officer selected in order that he might participate vicariously in the murder of the Archbishop. When Representative Thomas J. I reproduce it here with the same line-breaks as in the original. On March 15, the U. Truth Commission Report declared: The Commission finds the following: 1. Captains Alvaro Saravia and Eduardo Avila, together with Fernando Sagrera and Mario Molina, were actively involved in planning and carrying out the assassination.
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Amado Antonio Garay, the driver of former Captain Saravia, was assigned to drive the gunman to the Chapel Garay picked out a photograph of Mr. Former Vice-President Dan Quayle made the point in his own breezy way. He had influence, and if we were going to keep him in line, then we had to talk to him. The Academy was later shut down after a Congressional investigation revealed that it taught its clients how to torture.
Ambassador to El Salvador, Thomas R. The embassy in El Salvador and the State Department also knew the names of those who were paying for death squad murders.
In his sworn testimony of February 6, , former ambassador Robert White, recalling cables he had sent from El Salvador to the State Department from March of to January of , publicly named the wealthy Salvadoran landowners who, having temporarily left their country for the safety of Miami, continued to fund the death squads in El Salvador Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Center had managed to pry loose 1, pages of documents that the FBI had gathered by the secret surveillance of over groups of U.
These pages represent only about one-third of the complete file, which, as the FBI itself has disclosed, runs to 17 volumes and 3, pages. The FBI, it should be noted, vigorously denies that this surveillance was an exercise in harassment designed to stifle dissent. Webster director, began spying on a citizen group that strongly opposed U.
Catholic Conference. As documented in the Congressional record, the album contained pictures and political profiles of American citizens and foreigners, such as the following: Maryknoll Sister Peggy Healy. Christian Socialist. Boland, of course, was the author of the Boland Amendment, the circumvention of which led to the Iran-Contra affair. But one might remember that this was the time when Lt.
Oliver North of the National Security Council was secretly working with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to draw up contingency plans to spy on political dissenters and even, as Ross Gelbspan of the Boston Globe has pointed out, to arrange for the detention of hundreds of thousands of undocumented aliens in case of an unspecified national emergency. The plan, part of which was code-named Rex 84, called for the suspension of the Constitution under a number of scenarios, including a U. According to the article, Lt.
Col Oliver North helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U. Having obtained and studied a copy of the memo, The Miami Herald wrote: The scenario outlined in the Brinkerhoff memo resembled somewhat a paper Guiffrida had written in at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. North began his sworn testimony before Congress in the Iran-Contra matter. During those break-ins, money or expensive office equipment was never taken, but files were invariably rifled and some were stolen.
Donovan Cook were broken into, keys to the rooms of six Central American refugees were stolen, and files listing Sanctuary supporters were examined. Myers, an attorney on asylum cases, had his files of pending asylum cases stolen. Cash that Flynn had left on top of his desk was untouched. The previous break-ins were on November 27 and December , , and April and September 14, The offices were ransacked, and files were examined and scattered around the room. Stephen Brannon were broken into twice, and his files on Central American political asylum cases were ransacked.
The FBI denies having anything to do with the break-ins. President Reagan concurred in that judgment. The confession of Col. Within days of the Jesuit murders, President Cristiani appointed Lt. Shortly thereafter, Col. Benavides complied. From the beginning, Col. Rivas and the SIU did their utmost to obstacle the investigation of the murders. The interrogation of Mrs. Next, Lt. Cerna heard several shots on the campus shortly after a. The next morning at about a. The Jesuits in El Salvador decided to send Mr.
Cerna and their four-year-old daughter to the United States for their safety and protection. First, however, the Jesuits took her to the Spanish embassy, where she gave sworn testimony to a Salvadoran judge, the public prosecutor, and members of the SIU. Jesuit officials. The Jesuits intentionally did not inform the American embassy of their plans, but somehow Ambassador William G. Walker found out. Cerna on the flight to the United States. When the party arrived in Miami, Chidester, contrary to what he had agreed to do, did not deliver the Cerna family to the French and Spanish consuls.
When the U. Moreover, Lt. Rivas, who was orchestrating the military cover-up in San Salvador, was invited by Chidester to come to Miami, where Rivas participated in the interrogation of Mrs. After days of grueling questioning by Rivas and the FBI, which included insults, intimidation, and implied threats, Mrs.
Cerna retracted her story and said she had seen nothing relevant to the murder of the Jesuits. Major Eric Buckland, a senior military advisor in El Salvador, gave sworn testimony on three distinct occasions 1 that Salvadoran officers had planned and carried out the execution of the priests and 2 that he, Buckland, had had prior knowledge—from three weeks before the killings, right up to hours before they were carried out—that the military was going to take out the Jesuits.
This was at a time when Col. Rivas and the SIU were working overtime to conceal the perpetrators of the crime. Buckland gave his testimony as follows. January 2, , San Salvador. William C. Hunter, Jr. Guillermo Benavides had ordered the Atlacatl commandos to kill the Jesuits. Buckland had received this information on December 20, , from his good friend, Salvadoran Col.
On January 3 Buckland put the matter into writing for his superiors, and on January 6 he was flown to the United States. In the presence of FBI agents, Buckland gave sworn testimony that went beyond his earlier statements: he revealed that he himself had had prior knowledge, going back some weeks before the event, that Benavides and other officers were planning to murder the Jesuits.
That admission prompted the following exchange: Agent Cully: So if those killings were to occur, you would have accepted that as a necessary thing, for the country? Buckland: I either accepted it as necessary and I really understood it, okay. Up until then, the cover-up had been holding. Military Group in Salvador, U. The new cover-up began immediately. On January 5, three days after the meeting, the Armed Forces, in private consultation with American officials, took the extraordinary step of setting up their own investigative body—the Armed Forces Honor Commission—to look into the Jesuit murders.
The real purpose of this rump Commission was to prevent the indictments from reaching any higher than Col. Benavides: He was to be the fall guy, and higher ranking officers, especially the High Command, were to be insulated from indictment and trial. The tactic worked. In less than a week the Honor Commission came up with a very limited list of low-ranking suspects—the eight commandos who had actually carried out the murders, plus Benavides, who had sent them.
They and they alone would go to trial. No members of the High Command would ever be indicted for ordering the murder of the Jesuits. Why would the U. That was unacceptable. And if Buckland had prior knowledge of the crime, why not other U. In the days before the murder of the Jesuits two other U. Could they too have known the army was planning the murders?
Many shared offices with them. Hunter and other American advisors, were in the annex of the Joint Command Headquarters. The strategy for undoing it was twofold: bury the evidence and break the witness. The FBI briefed Chidester and his superiors on the seriousness of the matter. Shortly thereafter, U. As Martha Doggett, the American lawyer who carried out the most thorough investigation of the case, puts it: They decided not to disclose this information publicly, or to share it with the court.
More than just concealing the evidence, State Department and Pentagon officials actually denied its existence when The New York Times printed rumors suggesting that a U. His admission of prior knowledge was too explosive; he had to take it back. And he did. On January 14, the day after Chidester and Walker had received copies of his Washington testimony, Buckland announced at Fort Bragg that he wanted to change his story.
Representative Joseph Moakley of Massachusetts, who led the House Task Force investigating the murders, thinks he knows how Buckland was pressured into retracting. I think what happened was that after he testified, someone in a legal office somewhere must have pointed out to him that he had incriminated himself. He swore: I do not recall and am not aware of any specific information regarding any proposed threat to or attack on the University of Central America, including any of the Jesuit priests prior to the incident on November 16, I wish to specifically retract information or comments or suggestions made to FBI agents last week to that effect.
Indictments in the case never reached the Salvadoran High Command, the true perpetrators of the crime, and the embassy was able to deny that any U. In the words of Father Charles Beirne, S. They were afraid the whole house of cards would fall if the investigation went any further. They were involved with the cover-up from the very beginning. Ponce to help Ponce prepare for his own interview with Bradley. Benavides, plus seven soldiers who ranked no higher than lieutenant. The jury found only Col. Benavides and Lt.
Yusshy Mendoza guilty of murder. The other six, including the confessed triggermen, were absolved of all crimes. On April 1, , under a general amnesty law, Benavides and Mendoza were released from prison. Ponce, the man who ordered the crimes in the first place, was promoted from colonel to general, and from head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Minister of Defense. He remained a client of the United States and continued to serve his country until June 30, , when he retired with honors and full pension.
Surely not, for the United States is not a fascist country, and neither the Reagan nor the Bush administration was a fascist regime. In the early Sixties, as John F. Toynbee wrote: Today America is no longer the inspirer and leader of the World Revolution, and I have an impression that she is embarrassed and annoyed when she is reminded that this was her original mission. No one else laid this mission upon America. She chose it for herself, and for one hundred and forty-two years, reckoning from the year , she pursued this revolutionary mission with an enthusiasm which has proved deservedly infectious.
By contrast, America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in defence of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for. It has been deliberate, yet, in the spirit that animates this recent American movement in reverse, I miss the enthusiasm and the confidence that made the old revolutionary American irresistible. Whereas Toynbee would put the turning point at the Bolshevik Revolution of cf.
We must obey our blood and occupy new markets and if necessary new lands But the question was how to get the message across to people who did not want the gift. Shall we go on conferring our Civilization upon the peoples that sit in darkness, or shall we give those poor things a rest?
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Shall we bang right ahead in our old-time, loud, pious way, and commit the new century to the game; or shall we sober up and sit down and think it over first? More, they have begun to examine them. This is not well. We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. And it will give the Business a splendid new start. Twain ended his essay by suggesting that, once the Philippine Islands were conquered and assimilated to the project of Business, America should adopt a new banner to fly over its far-flung colony: As for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed.
We can have just our usual flag, but with the white stripes painted black, and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones. Progress and Civilization in that country can then have a boom, and will take in the Persons who are Sitting in Darkness. And we can resume Business as usual at the old stand.
The End of Impunity in El Salvador?
Hereinafter these two texts are referred to as U. Truth Commission Report. New York: Fordham University Press, Prepared for the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Washington, D. Government Printing Office, , pp. A1 and A20, here p. Blanton, eds. Tapley Bennett, Jr. Jarlow, Essex: Longman Group, , pp. The figure of up to 3, guerrillas attacking the capital city is from A Breach of Impunity, p.
John David Waghelstein, who served as Commander, U. Military Group, El Salvador, from to mid Green-Beret trained: Thirteen U. Special Forces Green Berets were training the commandos up to forty- eight hours before the murders. See below. Zepeda specifically blamed the Jesuits for planning an attack that had been carried out by FMLN urban commandos. Doggett, Death Foretold, p.