Skip to content

Wikileaks El Salvador: Cables Report Salvadoran Disapproval of International Investigations

June 13, 2011

US Embassy staff report that representatives from both the Salvadoran right and left expressed disapproval of possible international investigations into crimes committed during the Civil War.

Ignacio Ellacuría, killed in 1989.

A cable released by Wikileaks, 08SANSALVADOR1373 from December 16, 2008, discusses a case filed before the Spanish Audiencia Nacional (National Court) against the former president of El Salvador, Alfredo Cristiani. The case, brought to the Spanish National Court on November 13 by U.S. and Spanish human rights organizations and supported by the relatives of the victims, accuses Cristiani of “covering up crimes against humanity in the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests.” Additionally, over a dozen retired military officers are charged with “war crimes, murders, and state terrorism in connection with the same murders.”  Two other officers were convicted of murder for the deaths in 1991, but were pardoned in 1993 as a result of El Salvador’s Amnesty Law.

In the cable, Chargé d’Affaires Robert Blau of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador reports that senior ARENA (right wing) and FMLN (left wing) officials had traveled to Spain to discuss the case with Fernando Burgos Pavón, the Deputy Prosecutor for the Audiencia Nacional.

Blau reports that according to the FMLN’s Salvador Samayoa’s account of the meeting, Burgos Pavón did not believe that the case fell under Spain’s universal jurisdiction laws since it had already been tried in El Salvador, nor did it “qualify as a crime against humanity or genocide, but was merely a common crime.”

Burgos Pavón offered the Salvadorans some suggestions on how to proceed. The first option was to “delay, by making inquiries via official (i.e., glacially slow) diplomatic channels regarding handling of the case in El Salvador’s judicial system.” Alternatively, the Salvadoran government could “proactively submit information (instead of waiting for a request from Madrid) on how the case was handled.”

Samayoa also told Embassy Staff that members of the Spanish government had “expressed embarrassment about this and other cases before the Audiencia Nacional, including cases against members of the current U.S. administration and ‘half’ the government in Beijing.”

Alfredo Cristiani. Courtesy of wikipedia.

Blau concluded that the “murder of the Jesuits was an event of pre-meditated cruelty that had the effect of accelerating efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Civil War.” At the same time, “across the political spectrum…our interlocutors have expressed dismay at the charges against Cristiani, almost universally rejecting outside interference in reopening cases from El Salvador’s civil war that were dealt with by the peace commission and covered by El Salvador’s Amnesty Law.”

These cables reveal an ARENA and an FMLN united in their belief that the past should be left alone, a position the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador appears to support.

Earlier this month, the Spanish court issued an indictment and ordered the arrest of 20 ex-army officers for the Jesuit killings; former President Alfredo Cristiani was not charged in the indictment. See previous blog posting for more information, here.

The National Security Archive has in its holdings hundreds of documents related to the Jesuit Priest assassinations from the U.S. State Department, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. The declassified records were entered as evidence in the trial in Spain in December 2009, and National Security Archive Senior Analyst Kate Doyle traveled to Madrid to authenticate the documents. See Doyle’s previous blog post for more information about the Jesuit case. Additional documents related to the Jesuit case can also be found at the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Library of Congress Hispanic Reading Room.

A second Wikileaks cable sheds light on similar discontent over international investigations, this time related to the case of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. In a cable dated September 21, 2007, U.S. Embassy in San Salvador Chargé d’Affaires Michael Butler relays to the State Department that conservative ARENA government officials and representatives of the left-wing FMLN had voiced “concerns” about the case presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in relation to the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.  The Center for Justice and International Law, the Washington Office on Latin America, and “several Chilean attorneys,” among others, supported the case.

Butler reports that the Salvadoran government expressed its willingness to withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights and “reject the Court’s jurisdiction in this case if it is referred to and heard by the Court.” Indeed, some in the government are “prepared to take that move preemptively.”

According to Butler, Salvadoran officials are concerned about this case because El Salvador’s participation in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the IACHR is based on the exclusion of “all cases related to the civil war from the court’s jurisdiction.” If the case were heard, it would, they believe, “undermine El Salvador’s amnesty statute, which is viewed as a key instrument for cementing peace in the country.”

The National Security Archive has additional documents on the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. A small sample can be found on the Archive’s website, here. Many of the documents can be found through the Archive’s two published collections on El Salvador in the Digital National Security Archive; El Salvador: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1977-1984 and El Salvador: War, Peace, and Human Rights, 1980-1994.

One Comment
  1. February 1, 2012 12:24 am

    If there is a “posse”/bounty hunter outfit out there willing to go after alfredo christiani, please email me. I want to join our effort.

    Illegitimi non carborundum,


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: