Salvadorans Commemorate 25th Anniversary of Jesuit Massacre

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On Sunday, November 16, hundreds gathered at the Jesuit Central American University (UCA) in El Salvador to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the hands of US-trained Salvadoran armed forces. The murders remain one of many emblematic cases of impunity for crimes committed against the civilian population during the country’s civil war.

On November 16, 1989, Celina and Julia Elba Ramos along with Jesuit priests Armando López, Joaquín López y López, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramón Moreno, Ignacio Martín-Baró and Ignacio Ellacuría were murdered on the campus of the UCA by Salvadoran military forces trained at the US School of the Americas. The administration of then-president Alfredo Crisitani of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party moved to cover up the crime. In 1993, a year after peace accords ended the 12-year civil war, Cristiani signed an Amnesty Law into effect that has been a barrier to justice in the cases of countless crimes against humanity committed during the war.

With the perpetrators shielded at home, human rights advocates have sought justice for the murders through international channels. In 2011, a Spanish court indicted 20 implicated former officials under Spain’s universal jurisdiction doctrine, but El Salvador’s Supreme Court denied Spain’s request for extradition. Former vice Minister of Public Security Inocente Orlando Montano is the only one of those indicted not currently residing in El Salvador; Montano is serving a 21-month prison sentence in the United States for immigration fraud and faces a deportation order. Lawyers are pressuring the US to extradite Montano to Spain before his deportation so that he may face trail, and El Salvador’s current administration of Salvador Sánchez Cerén has expressed full support for the action.

Activities honoring the Jesuits included an annual mass and vigil at the UCA, as well as a series of panels and reflections with Jesuit and human rights leaders throughout the week. On November 15, Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, who led the 1989 congressional investigations into the murders, joined US Jesuit leaders for discussion on their impact in the United States. “We come to El Salvador this weekend to commemorate the lives and the loss of our Jesuit brothers. But we are also here to reflect on what has happened over the past 25 years. I believe that U.S. policy toward El Salvador has fallen far short in the aftermath of the war,” said McGovern, calling for support for Salvadoran immigrants in the US and denouncing the recent conditioning of US development aid.

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