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Amnesty blesses butchery of El Salvador's murderers.

Word comes that it is business as usual among the ranks of mighty rulers -- and butchers -- of El Salvador.

On March 31 they announced the release (page 8) of the two army officers serving 30-year sentences for the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador.

We learn that Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides and Lt. Yusshy Mendoza are only the first to be freed under a new Salvadoran law providing a blanket pardon for "political" crimes committed during El Salvador's bloody civil war.

We hear of published reports that amnesty will also likely be given to the national guardsmen jailed for the 1980 rape and murder of four North American church women: Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel and lay missioner Jean Donovan.

Atrocity added to atrocity. At the same time, the world knows -- and the U.N. Truth Commission Report has confirmed -- that justice has never been served by jailing those who pulled the triggers during the 1989 killings or who carrid out the 1980 rapes and murders. Those who ordered the murders are the real criminals, and they are the very one now ordering the release of those who have served prison sentences in their places.

It is a tidy system, outrageously unjust and immoral. It is also a product of the anticommunist fanaticism and indifference to values of human decency and rights that characterized U.S. foreign policy under the Reagan and Bush administrators.

It may be that there is little, if anything, that any of us can do to bring required justice to El Salvador. It may be that the butchers of El Salvador, responsible for 75,000 or more deaths, will never spend a day of their lives behind bars. Their judgment will come another day.

However, we must not allow history to repeat itself. We must do all we can to bring to the light of day the lessons of the past. To achieve this, we need to study the actions and policies of those U.S. officials who presided over, propped up and and essentially gave the green light to killers of El Salvador.

So we join in the call for the Clinton administration to declassify and make public all documents pertaining to U.S. policy in El Salvador for the period Jan. 1, 1979, through Jan. 16, 1992 (the date of the signing of the peace accords). Needed is the equivalent of the Vietnam War Pentagon Papers for the El Salvador war.

Simply put, we need a thorough and public accounting of our government's complicity in the actions detailed by the U.N. Truth Commission Report. As Father William Callahan, codirector of the Quixote Center, a Central American human rights group, recently said: "The work of truth-telling has but begun."
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Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 16, 1993
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