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Human Rights Watch World Report 1990 - El Salvador

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 1 January 1991
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1990 - El Salvador, 1 January 1991, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467fca32c.html [accessed 22 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Events of 1990

Human Rights Developments

The year 1990 ended much as it began in El Salvador – with a great deal of uncertainty about the country's prospects for peace after more than a decade of violence and bloodshed. On November 20, the guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) launched a series of attacks against military and strategic targets throughout El Salvador. The FMLN, which termed the attacks a "limited military operation," claimed that it launched the operation to "punish" the Salvadoran military and "accelerate" the peace negotiations, which had bogged down principally over the issue of military reform. At least in the short run, however, the assault, which the FMLN declared on December 31, may have weakened the prospects for peace.

According to initial reports, the FMLN's year-end offensive resulted in hundreds of dead and wounded combatants as well as scores if not hundreds of civilian casualties. Near the start of the offensive, Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez stated in a November 25 homily that "both sides did what they could to avoid harming civilians." It, indeed, appeared that international scrutiny following the guerrilla offensive of November 1989, in which both sides engaged in clear violations of the laws of war, as well as a human rights accord signed by the government and the FMLN in July 1990, heightened the sensitivity of both sides to the need to protect civilian lives. However, the number of civilian casualties – both dead and wounded – suggested that both sides had put noncombatants into the line of fire.

Prior to the FMLN military operation, the human rights situation in El Salvador during 1990 was characterized by a discouraging increase in death squad killings; continuing setbacks in the investigations of major human rights cases; lingering FMLN abuses including summary executions; and a continuing practice of disappearance following arrest on the part of the armed forces. In addition, in July, the Salvadoran governmental Human Rights Commission protested to the armed forces the "truly alarming frequency" of human rights violations by civil defense units, including murder, assault and rape. Statistics compiled by the Archdiocesan human rights office Tutela Legal through the end of September showed that the vast majority of targeted assassinations of civilians continued to be carried out by the army, security forces and death squads associated with them.

The marked increase in the number of death squad killings is particularly troubling. Although death squad assassinations declined steadily in early and mid-1989 (following a disturbing upswing in 1988), they climbed sharply throughout 1990, and they were, as of the third quarter of 1990, occurring at a rate approximately double that of the comparable period in 1989. The roller-coaster statistics on death squad murders indicated that little had changed in the structures that permit such abuses to occur.

On the positive side, there was a limited, yet hopeful, accord on human rights between the government and the guerrillas signed in July 1990, and a tentative reopening of political space which had all but evaporated following the FMLN's November 1989 offensive.

To the government's credit, following the lifting of the state of siege in April 1990, there was greater freedom of expression and association than in the earlier months of the year. Yet, during the year-end offensive, there were increased reports of searches, harassment, and ransacking of humanitarian organizations' offices by the army and security forces. The National Revolutionary Movement also denounced the government for having made accusations on radio and television blaming leftist politicians Guillermo Ungo and Rubén Zamora for the FMLN attacks; the government later privately apologized for the accusations.

There were other notable exceptions to the reopening of political space. On July 3, government soldiers raided the San Salvador office of the Social Christian Popular Movement (MPSC) and later blamed the incident on common crime. Two MPSC activists were also detained in Santa Ana, and an activist of the National Democratic Union, a small leftist party, was found murdered. Serious threats were received by leaders of the UNTS (National Unity of Salvadoran Workers) and UNOC (National Union of Workers and Peasants) labor coalitions following their ubmission of petitions charging labor rights violations to US Trade Representative Carla Hills. Paid advertisements taken out by the ruling ARENA party appeared in Salvadoran newspapers in September labeling the unions' actions traitorous.

As in years past, Salvadoran civilians, often repatriates, suffered from indiscriminate attacks by both the Salvadoran air force and the FMLN guerrillas. On February 11, in Corral de Piedra, Chalatenango, two rockets fired from a Salvadoran air force helicopter hit a house in which 21 civilians had taken refuge, killing five and wounding sixteen. Four of the five killed were children under the age of 10; eleven of the wounded were children between four months and twelve years of age. Throughout the year there were reports of indiscriminate army fire in populated areas during or following FMLN attacks; army sources have insisted that their fire was aimed at rebel positions, an assertion contested by local villagers.

There were several cases of indiscriminate attacks by the FMLN in 1990 as well. On October 23, the rebels attacked the Defense Ministry compound in San Salvador, launching a homemade explosive which missed its intended target and hit a nearby house, killing two children and wounding two women. (On February 27, 1989, long before this attack, the FMLN had announced the suspension of the use of these devices, which are homemade and unreliable. Americas Watch reiterates its call for the FMLN to abandon the use of such inaccurate devices in civilian areas, a practice which violates the laws of war.)

Americas Watch also received reports of indiscriminate FMLN attacks and attacks in which insufficient efforts were made to avoid collateral civilian injuries. Often, these involve FMLN ambushes of soldiers as they entered or left towns, resulting in combat in populated areas which endangers civilians. In one case, the FMLN and Salvadoran armed forces engaged in two hours of fighting around a school where 40 children were trapped. Miraculously, the children suffered no injuries. In a case of apparently indiscriminate fire in September, an eight-year-old girl in San Agustín, Usulután was shot and killed by the guerrillas as she ran toward her home. The mother surmised that the guerrillas killed her daughter because "she looks pretty old, and they might have thought she was armed."

The Salvadoran government and FMLN guerrillas participated in seven rounds of United Nations-mediated peace talks beginning in Geneva in April. In late November, it was reported that the UN negotiating team had taken a more active mediating role, preparing a confidential proposal which was submitted to both sides. The plan reportedly called for far-reaching military reforms which the leadership of the armed forces had so far resisted. Among the proposals were the establishment of an independent commission to investigate and dismiss military officers found guilty of human rights abuses, and the dismantling of the armed forces' intelligence branch and two of the country's three security forces. At the end of 1990, it appeared unlikely that the two sides would come to a peace agreement soon. Yet one hopeful sign was the absence of calls by either side to withdraw from the peace talks following the FMLN military offensive of mid-November.

In July, in the first concrete achievement of the peace process, the Salvadoran government and the FMLN signed a broad human rights accord. The agreement set out obligations for both sides in the conflict to avoid practices that endanger lives, and provided for the establishment of a UN mission to verify human rights practices following a ceasefire. As movement toward a ceasefire slowed late in the year, the UN nonetheless began preparations for a verification group to start operating before a ceasefire.

Many, if not most, of the obligations assumed under the accord pertain to the Salvadoran government. They cover the rights of detainees, the displaced, and repatriated refugees, as well as guarantees of freedom of expression. Many of these obligations are already contained in the Salvadoran Constitution as well as in international human rights conventions to which El Salvador is a signatory. The accord was thus mainly a broad statement of good intentions, a promising first step in the protection of human rights in El Salvador. Immediately following the accord, both sides appeared to reaffirm their good intentions by reducing violations in some categories. The government also established additional judicial mechanisms to determine the whereabouts of detainees. But by October, prior to the launching of the FMLN year-end offensive, the rate of violations had returned to the pre-accord pace.

The investigation into the November 16, 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter proceeded at a snail's pace during 1990,10 and was tainted by allegations that the High Command both had prior knowledge of a plot to kill the priests and had conspired to cover up the crime. On January 13, President Alfredo Cristiani ordered the detention of Col. Alfredo Benavides Morales of the Military Academy and eight other soldiers for the murders. (One of the accused is still at large.) Later in the year, Judge Ricardo Zamora ordered the arrests of additional soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel charged with destruction of evidence.11

In a judicial system already fraught with problems – such as the provision of Salvadoran law which prohibits testimony of one co-defendant against another – Judge Zamora must also overcome obstacles such as the destruction and fabrication of evidence by members of the armed forces and false testimony by Salvadoran soldiers. While recognizing the difficult circumstances in which Judge Zamora must function, Americas Watch is deeply concerned that his intention announced on December 8 to move the case to trial will definitively halt further investigation of the role of other senior officers in the murder conspiracy. We fear that his decision stems from a political imperative felt by Salvadoran, as well as US, officials to get the case behind them as quickly as possible. Jesuit Provincial José María Tojeira said that the judge's decision could lead to a "mockery of justice" by failing to identify the intellectual authors of the crime.

Even after widespread international condemnation of the Jesuit massacre, Jesuit priests in El Salvador continued to face harassment from the armed forces. In mid-August, Fathers Jon Cortina and Nicolás Alvarenga were fired upon several times by an army sniper in the northern town where Cortina is pastor. One bullet missed Father Cortina's head by several inches while he was attempting to move a vehicle widely known to belong to the Jesuits; two other shots fell directly in front of him as he attempted to leave his vehicle and deliver a letter to some nuns in the town. Father Cortina reported that before the attack a group of soldiers from the Bracamonte Battalion had entered a nearby town, saying that they were going to suck the blood of the priests that work in the zone.

The lack of thorough investigation and prosecution in the Jesuit case was not unique in El Salvador. In fact, 1990 was notable for the number of important human rights cases that were dismissed wholly or in part. The cases included the following two in which the United States had pressed hard for an investigation and prosecution of those responsible:

San Sebastián: On September 21, 1988, Salvadoran soldiers, commanded by the head of military intelligence of the Fifth Brigade, Maj. Mauricio Beltrán Granados, summarily executed ten captured peasants in the hamlet of San Francisco, San Vicente, staging the executions to look like a guerrilla ambush. The Bush administration, and particularly Ambassador William Walker, made resolution of the case a top US priority. During a trip to El Salvador in February 1989, Vice President Dan Quayle warned Salvadoran officials that US aid would be threatened if the killers were not brought to justice. Following Quayle's visit, nine Salvadoran soldiers were arrested for the crime.

In February 1990, however, charges were dismissed against seven of the nine military defendants in the case. The judge ruled that the case should proceed against Maj. Beltrán and Sub-Sgt. Rafael González Villalobos. Then, in May, an appeals court in San Vicente reversed the decision to try Sub-Sgt. González Villalobos, and affirmed the dismissal of charges against the remaining defendants. Only Maj. Beltrán remained in detention.

The court reasoned that the principal evidence against González – his confession and the testimony of another soldier – was inadmissible because it had been taken by the US-funded Special Investigative Unit (SIU), which El Salvador's criminal procedure code does not designate as an auxiliary organ of the judiciary with power to provide evidence to the courts. At the end of 1990, the case against Maj. Beltrán was scheduled to proceed to jury selection, although many doubted he would ever actually stand trial.

Although the Salvadoran judicial system is not based on precedent, it is alarming to contemplate the ramifications of a ruling that SIU-gathered evidence is inadmissible. In future cases, including that of the Jesuits, defendants may invoke the irregularities of Salvadoran criminal procedure to ensure that incriminating evidence gathered by the SIU cannot be considered. The decision also raises serious questions about the wisdom of US funding of the SIU.

Kidnapping-For-Profit: Between 1982 and 1985, rightists and members of the armed forces posing as leftist guerrillas kidnapped wealthy Salvadorans and ransomed them for profit. In April 1990, kidnapping and robbery charges were dismissed for lack of evidence against all but two of the eight defendants in the kidnapping-for-profit case. The court also dismissed robbery charges against the two remaining defendants, including National Guard intelligence officer Rodolfo Isidro López Sibrián, who had also been implicated in the 1981 murder of two US agrarian reform advisers and the head of the Salvadoran land reform agency. López Sibrián remained in detention, but his father-in-law, Luis Orlando Llovera Ballete, had been released in March 1989 after a controversial court ruling. To his credit, President Cristiani instructed the Attorney General to appeal the dismissal of charges.

In an encouraging move, the Bush administration quietly suspended $2 million in US aid to the Salvadoran judicial system because of setbacks in the prosecution of the San Sebastián and the kidnapping-for-profit cases.

Americas Watch was also disturbed by the lack of serious investigation, either in El Salvador or Guatemala, of the murders of two Social Democratic leaders, Salvadoran Héctor Oquelí Colindres and Guatemalan Gilda Flores. Oquelí was under-secretary general of the National Revolutionary Movement and secretary of the Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Socialist International; Flores was a Guatemalan lawyer and activist of the Social Democratic Party. The two were abducted early in the morning of January 12, 1990 on their way to the Guatemala City airport. Their bodies were found later that day.

In July, after undertaking an investigation and producing two reports on the murders, the Guatemalan government charged ARENA leader Roberto D'Aubuisson and two businessmen, Orlando and Fernando de Sola, with masterminding the murders. Two prominent US human rights lawyers asked by the Socialist International to investigate the killings found both Guatemalan reports on the murders seriously flawed. They concurred, however, that the assassinations were most probably carried out on behalf of, if not by, Salvadoran rightists, and added that Guatemalans, including members of the security forces, were probably involved as well.12 Salvadoran President Cristiani denied that any Salvadoran was involved in the murders. The case remained unsolved at year's end.

US Policy

The Bush administration went on record throughout 1990 in favor of a negotiated settlement in El Salvador, supporting President Cristiani's call for peace talks to end the war. Yet like its predecessor, the Bush administration was unwilling or unable to pressure the Salvadoran armed forces to make necessary reforms, or to admit that the absence of such reform posed the central obstacle to the talks.

In addition, despite months of insistence that a satisfactory investigation of the Jesuit murders was a central objective of US policy, administration officials withheld key evidence from both Salvadoran and US congressional investigators. Administration officials also opposed efforts in Congress to punish the Salvadoran government for its lack of progress in investigating the murders by witholding military aid.

The year began inauspiciously when on January 2, US Ambassador to El Salvador William Walker told Rep. Joe Moakley, head of a House task force on the Jesuit murders, that the priests might have been killed by guerrillas dressed up in military uniforms. That same day, Maj. Eric Buckland, a US adviser in El Salvador, went to a superior with information that a Salvadoran colonel had confessed his role in the crime. The head of the US military group in El Salvador, Col. Milton Menjivar, then took the information to Col. René Emilio Ponce, then head of the Salvadoran High Command. Menjivar named Buckland's source – his counterpart in psychological operations in the Salvadoran army, Col. Carlos Avilés. In the view of the Moakley Task Force, Menjivar's action led to many of the important breakthroughs in the investigation; but the "burning" of Col. Avilés sent a powerful message that others with knowledge of the crime should not dare to share it with the US embassy.13

Buckland was also the source of other explosive information regarding the Jesuits. In a second affidavit given to the FBI in mid-January, he implicated Col Benavides in a plot to kill the Jesuits ten days before the murders were carried out (and before the guerrillas' November 1989 offensive). According to Buckland, whose statement was also videotaped by the FBI, Col. Benavides was threatening to kill the priests; upon learning of Benavides's intentions, Col. Ponce sent Col. Avilés to meet with Benavides to deter him from committing the crime. After providing this information to the FBI, Buckland recanted his affidavit, apparently under intense pressure to do so. According to one account, he was "grilled and grilled" until "finally he cracked," and was an emotional "wreck" following three days of interrogation and polygraph tests. US officials were quoted in the press as saying that the information in Buckland's second affidavit was 100 percent correct.14

The information in Buckland's second affidavit was shared with the US embassy in San Salvador and with the State Department. Over a ten-month period, senior US officials withheld Buckland's testimony about the plot to kill the priests from the Salvadoran judge presiding in the case, from the SIU, and from the Moakley Task Force. When the information was finally leaked to Rep. Moakley, he insisted that the affidavit and videotape be turned over to Salvadoran Judge Ricardo Zamora. By withholding the information, the Bush administration delayed for ten months the investigation of this prior threat against the Jesuits, as well as of Col. Ponce's role in covering up for Col. Benavides after the murders took place.

Throughout the winter and early spring, the tone of congressional debate over aid to El Salvador was set by the investigation, or lack thereof, into the Jesuit murders. The Moakley Task Force played the preeminent role in shaping congressional opinion. On April 30, the Task Force released its first report, stating that "the murders of the Jesuits reflect problems within the Salvadoran armed forces that go far beyond the actions of a particular unit on a particular night." The report stated that the investigation and preparations for prosecuting the case were at a "virtual standstill," and noted that investigators had made little effort to determine whether senior military officers other than Col. Benavides, who was detained in January, might have played a role in ordering or covering up the crimes.15

The release of the Moakley report gave impetus to efforts in Congress to cut military aid to El Salvador. That, in turn, prompted the administration to attempt to get the investigation moving. Ambassador Walker appeared on Salvadoran television on May 1 to complain that the Jesuit case needed more investigation. (Just one week earlier, Ambassador Walker had stated on CBS's 60 Minutes that the case was solved.) One week after Ambassador Walker's appeal, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher quoted President Cristiani as saying that the SIU had resumed a serious investigation and that the case would come to trial within 90 days. When asked by a reporter when the investigation had concluded so that it could be resumed, Boucher responded: "I think there was something of a lull."

On May 22, the House of Representatives voted 250 to 163 to reduce military aid to El Salvador by 50 percent. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Moakley and another member of the Task Force, Rep. John Murtha, a long-time supporter of aid to El Salvador. Although the underlying piece of legislation containing the Moakley-Murtha amendment was defeated on final passage, the vote on May 22 represented an overwhelming repudiation of administration policy, reflecting widespread revulsion over the Jesuit murders and the Salvadoran government's failure to investigate.

In June, the Bush administration intensified its focus on the Senate, which was considering companion legislation offered by Senators Christopher Dodd and Patrick Leahy. The administration offered privately to cut military aid to El Salvador by 15 to 30 percent of the proposed $85 million. The discussions broke down when senators and administration officials could not agree over the mechanisms for restoring the full amount of aid.

Meanwhile, the findings of the Moakley Task Force continued to feed sentiment in Congress for an aid cut. In a statement released on August 15, Rep. Moakley charged that the Salvadoran Army High Command was "engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice" in the Jesuits' case. Moakley said that Salvadoran military officers had "withheld evidence, destroyed evidence, falsified evidence and repeatedly perjured themselves in testimony before the judge." He stated that the military's goal "from the beginning" had been "to control the investigation and to limit the number and rank of the officers who will be held responsible for the crimes."

As the Senate prepared to vote on its aid-cut legislation in October, Secretary of State James Baker, Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, and Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Bernard Aronson made a last-minute lobbying effort to get the Senate to water down the Dodd-Leahy legislation. Publicly, administration officials supported a military aid reduction. But behind the scenes, administration officials sent personal letters and made phone calls urging senators to vote against the legislation. Officials complained that the Dodd-Leahy bill would punish the Salvadoran government and favor the FMLN in peace talks. The administration supported an amendment by Senators Bob Graham and John McCain which would have allowed the administration to restore aid to the Salvadoran government if there were no cease-fire within 60 days. Because the UN-sponsored talks envisioned that a ceasefire would grow out of prior political accords between the government and the FMLN, the proposal for a ceasefire in 60 days was simply a way of ensuring a swift restoration of aid as the peace talks remained bogged down.

On October 19, Congress finally parted ways with administration policy on El Salvador. The Senate voted 74 to 25 to endorse the earlier House decision to cut military aid to El Salvador by one-half in fiscal year 1991. It also rejected, 58 to 39, the Graham-McCain amendment supported by the administration. For the first time in a decade, both Houses of Congress voted in freestanding aid bills that became law to cut military aid to El Salvador on human rights grounds. The waning of the Cold War, and with it fears of Soviet penetration in the hemisphere, surely provided the backdrop for the congressional decision.

The final legislation approved by Congress provides half of the original military aid request, $42.5 million, which can be restored in full if President Bush determines that the FMLN: is not negotiating in good faith; refuses an active meditation role by the UN; refuses to accept a plan by the UN Secretary General for a settlement to the conflict, including a ceasefire; acquires significant lethal arms shipments from outside the country; launches an offensive jeopardizing the survival of the government; or engages in violence against civilian noncombatants.

All military aid is to be terminated if the President determines and reports in writing to Congress that the Salvadoran government: fails to negotiate in good faith; refuses an active mediation role by the UN; refuses to accept a plan by the UN Secretary General for a settlement to the conflict, including a ceasefire; fails to conduct a serious and professional investigation into, and prosecution of, the November 16, 1989 killings of the Jesuits and their associates; fails to actively seek and encourage a law enforcement service from outside El Salvador, such as Scotland Yard or INTERPOL, to accompany and monitor investigators in the Jesuit murders; or if the military or security forces engage in violence directed at civilian targets. On November 5, President Bush signed the fiscal year 1991 foreign aid bill, including the El Salvador restrictions.16 In response to the late November guerrilla offensive, the Bush administration announced on December 6 that it was accelerating delivery of military aid in the pipeline and from the 1991 appropriation.

In an encouraging move, on October 27, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990, which includes a provision granting Salvadoran refugees an 18-month stay of deportation. The bill mandates that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) be granted to Salvadorans who were in the US before September 19, 1990. TPS is granted only for a period of 18 months, although it could be renewed by Congress or the Attorney General. The stay of deportation is an important mechanism for ensuring at least temporarily that Salvadorans whose petitions for asylum have been rejected by a deeply biased review system or who have failed even to apply for asylum in light of the near futility of doing so under the current system are not returned to their country to face political persecution. Refugee assistance groups have noted the danger, however, that Salvadorans registering under the new law could provide the INS with information that could lead to deportation and persecution if the 18-month period is not extended.

The Work of Americas Watch

Americas Watch devoted considerable resources to El Salvador in 1990, maintaining (since 1985) an office in San Salvador, producing several studies, and providing information to congressional offices and the press throughout the year. In March, Americas Watch published A Year of Reckoning: El Salvador A Decade After the Assassination of Archbishop Romero. The report documented human rights abuses by both the Salvadoran government and the FMLN during 1989, and included a review of a decade of US policy in El Salvador. In May, Americas Watch issued a report on summary executions of several hundred captured civilians carried out by the FMLN since the early 1980s. The study rejected rebel assertions that its executions were carried out following trials which met international standards of due process. In September, Americas Watch released a study of eight major human rights cases in El Salvador, illustrating the impunity still enjoyed by military officers and death squad members for their crimes.17

On August 22, Americas Watch presented a brief to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States on the Jesuit case, highlighting the Salvadoran military's falsification of testimony, destruction of evidence, and refusal to cooperate with judicial initiatives. Because the Salvadoran government failed to respond to an initial request from the Commission for information concerning the case, Americas Watch requested that the Commission formally accuse the government of violating the right to life and due process (Articles 4 and 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights) and bring the case to trial before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

In addition, on September 28 and 29, US Trade Representative (USTR) Carla Hills held hearings on labor rights violations in El Salvador at which Americas Watch testified. The hearings were to determine whether El Salvador's labor rights practices precluded it under US law from receiving trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences. Representatives of Salvadoran trade unions – the National Union of Workers and Peasants (UNOC) and the National Federation of Salvadoran Workers (FENASTRAS) – and US human rights and labor organizations, including Americas Watch and the AFL-CIO, also submitted petitions earlier in the year about extensive labor rights violations. If the USTR decides that the Salvadoran government is not guaranteeing labor rights, trade benefits must be terminated. A decision is expected on April 1, 1991.


10 For an overview see Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, The Jesuit Case a Year Later: An Interim Report, November 15, 1990.

11 During the November 1990 fighting, army intelligence officer Capt. Carlos Herrera Carranza was reportedly killed by a sniper's bullet. According to court documents, Capt. Herrera Carranza initiated the search of the Jesuit residence three days before the massacre. It has also been reported that Capt. Herrera Carranza entered a senior intelligence meeting early on November 16 to report that Rev. Ignacio Ellacuría, one of the six murdered priests, had been killed. Capt. Herrera Carranza claimed that he had heard the news of the Jesuit massacre on the radio, but it appeared that his announcement came before any station began broadcasting news of the massacre. He was the second captain involved in the Jesuit case to have been killed in 1990.

12 Tom Farer and Robert Goldman, The Assassination of Lic. Gilda Flores and Dr. Hector Oquelí: An Evaluation of the Investigation and Reports Prepared by the Government of the Republic of Guatemala, September 1990, pp. 23-25.

13 Salvadoran retired Col. Sigifredo Ochoa stated on CBS's 60 Minutes in April that "the American officer [Col. Menjivar] put the informant in a very difficult situation, so dangerous that he [Avilés] could have been killed." Yet Ambassador Walker defended the handling of Avilés and said that, "Unlike, you know, newspapermen, who feel they'd rather die than reveal a source, we're not in that same game." See "Troublesome Priests," Village Voice, May 22, 1990.

14 "Cracking the Major," Newsweek, November 19, 1990. Maj. Buckland was the second witness in the Jesuit case to have recanted after being interrogated by the FBI. The first, Lucía Barrera de Cerna, recanted her eyewitnesses testimony following several days of intensive, incommunicado interrogation at the hands of the FBI and a Salvadoran army officer. She later stated that she felt pressured into recanting by the threatening and intimidating manner in which she was interrogated.

15 Speaker's Task Force on El Salvador, Interim Report, April 30, 1990, pp. 6-7.

16 In fiscal year 1991, the Bush administration requested $180 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) and $85 million in military aid. The law (PL 101-513) halves the military aid, but does not set a specific level for ESF. Up to $1.5 million of ESF may be made available to assist the Special Investigative Unit, but only after congressional committees receive a report from the Secretary of State transmitting a plan and timetable for the Salvadoran government to transfer the unit from military to civilian control. Ten percent of the withheld military aid may be used to assist in carrying out judicial reform, and $5 million of military aid may not be made available until all investigative action is concluded in the 1981 murder of two US labor advisors and the head of the Salvadoran agrarian reform agency, and until that case, the 1988 San Sebastián case, the case of the October 1989 bombing of the FENASTRAS (National Federation of Salvadoran Workers) offices and the November 1989 Jesuit case are fully prosecuted. In addition, during FY91 and 92, the US and Salvadoran governments shall jointly program $10 million worth of ESF for retiring the debt owed by the Jesuit-run University of Central America to the Inter-American Development Bank.

17 News From Americas Watch, "Impunity Prevails in Human Rights Cases," September 1990.

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