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Salvadoran reactions to truth report vary.

For archbishop, forgiveness comes later

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador - Two months after the official end of El Salvador's civil war, a United Nations Commission on the Truth has released a report confirming extensive involvement by El Salvador's army in the nation's most notorious cases of political murder.

Among other things, the report, released March 15, cites "substantial proof" that in November 1989, Defense Minister Gen. Rene Emilio Ponce, then a colonel, led a conspiracy in which another colonel was ordered to assassinate the Jesuit rector of the Central American University in San Salvador, Ignacio Ellacuria, "without leaving witnesses." Ponce has resigned his post.

Also named in the Jesuit case are two officers who, at the time of the killings, held the posts of vice minister of defense and head of the air force.

The report names rightist leader Roberto D'Aubuisson for organizing death squads and ordering the murder of San Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980. It cites another former defense minister for playing a role in the cover-up of the 1980 murder of four U.S. churchwomen.

The commission report concluded that the U.S.-trained Atlacatl army unit was responsible for the massacre of an estimated 1,000 men, women and children in El Mozote in 1981.

The report says the "vast majority of abuses studied" by the Truth Commission "were committed by members of the armed forces or groups allied to them." But the commission found the guerrillas, known as the FMLN, were also guilty of human rights violations.

The commission called for dismissing senior military officers and barring many government and rebel officials implicated in the abuses from holding leadership posts in government or political parties for at least 10 years.

The United States, which at the height of the war in the mid-1980s was giving El Salvador $1.5 million a day in economic and military aid, often played down the level of abuses, said the report.

The commission's large staff of investigators said it "received direct testimony from 2,000 sources related to 7,000 victims and information from secondary sources relating to more than 18,000 victims."

There was immediate disagreement over what the consequences of the commission's report should be.

Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani has called for an immediate amnesty for those cited in the report. But Americas Watch, a human rights group that has maintained a full-time presence in El Salvador since 1985, issued a statement opposing amnesty and calling for a widening "of the circle of those who must stand trial" to ensure such atrocities are not repeated.

Americas Watch also noted that a national reconciliation law passed in 1992 prohibited amnesty for those who participated in grave acts of violence.

San Salvador Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas said that forgiveness might properly come after recommendations of the commission were dealt with.

FMLN leaders said any amnesty should be postponed at least until after the report's recommendations are carried out.

Among other things, the report calls for sweeping changes in the country's judicial system and recommends the "immediate implementation of constitutional reforms requiring the turnover of the present members of the Supreme Court." It also recommends an investigation into death squad activity.
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Title Annotation:El Salvador death squads investigation
Author:Palumbo, Gene
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Mar 26, 1993
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