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Salvador archbishop attacks amnesty deal.

Rivera Damas seeks a |period of catharsis' following truth report

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas has accused the governing Arena Party of carrying out a "desperate maneuver" aimed at blurring awareness of grave human rights violations committed during the civil war that ended in December.

Rivera attacked an amnesty bill passed by the national assembly immediately after the release of a U.N. Truth Commission report that charged government and army officials with ordering and then covering up a series of political murders, among them the killing of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980, four U.S. churchwomen in 1980 and six Jesuit priests in 1989.

The bill passed by the assembly granted "absolute and unconditional amnesty" to those accused in the Truth Commission's report, among them the current minister and vice minister of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Rivera Damas called the commission's report "a historic document" whose "revelations ... confirm what we already knew" about the murders of Romero, the churchwomen and the Jesuits.

"What is new here," said the archbishop, "is the official and solemn character" of the allegations, which were reprinted in the archdiocese's weekly newspaper.

Rivera said that with the publication of the report, "the hour of truth has arrived" in the case of the murder of Romero.

"The Truth Commission has managed to reconstruct the story ... of the dark conspiracy which violently took (Romero's) life," said the archbishop.

The report says that extreme rightist Roberto D'Aubuisson ordered the killing of Romero and that others took part in the murder. D'Aubuisson, who died of cancer last year, founded the governing Arena Party.

Rivera called the amnesty a "desperate maneuver" aimed at "throwing a blanket of forgetfulness ... over this and other incidents which show the degree to which the hearts of some of our fellow citizens were corrupted."

The archbishop charged that the amnesty was also designed to perpetuate the immunity enjoyed by those who killed Romero and others.

Rivera said he was not opposed in principle to an amnesty, but rather that it should only be granted after the Truth Commission's report was made available to all citizen's, and after a "period of social catharsis."

The Truth Commission report called for the immediate firing of more than 40 high-ranking army officers and for removal of all the judges on the Supreme Court. The report charged the president of the Supreme Court with "unprofessional conduct" and said he had interfered in the investigation of a civilian massacre by an elite, U.S.-trained army unit.

Meanwhile, Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois called for closing the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga. The school trained many of the Salvadorans named in the Truth Commission report as perpetrators of atrocities. The history of the school, according to Bourgeois, who has gone on frequent hunger strikes to protest its existence, is teaching repressive tactics to right-wing military regimes in Latin America.
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Title Annotation:Arturo Rivera y Damas
Author:Palumbo, Gene
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Apr 2, 1993
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