|Central American University - UCA
Number 113 | Diciembre 1990
El Salvador: CHRONOLOGY
November 198911- At 8:00 pm the FMLN launches its most powerful military offensive in San Salvador and other cities in 10 years of war. Within hours, all radio stations are hooked up to the army's Radio Cuscatlán, where death threats are broadcast against political and religious leaders and against "Ellacuría and the UCA subversives." Vice President Merino himself accuses Father El lacuna of having "poisoned the minds of Salvador's youth."
13 - Father Ellacuría returns to San Salvador from Spain. Only hours later, at 6:30 pm, a commando unit from the Atlacatl Battalion raids the Jesuit residence at the UCA and other nearby university installations. They examine everything and identify various priests, but remove nothing.
16- At 6:30 am, the end of curfew, Don Obdulio heads from his little guardhouse to the priests' residence, worried because his wife Julia Elba and daughter Celina have not appeared. In the yard he discovers the bodies of the two women and the six priests. He runs to the Provincial's house to advise him.
The Monseñor Romero Pastoral Center, next door to the priests' house, has been looted; a flammable liquid applied to the computers and archives continues burning until 8 am. A hand- written sign on the UCA gate reads: "The FMLN has executed the opposition spies. Victory or Death. FMLN."
Before 7:00 am, the national and international media are already spreading the news; it travels the world in minutes. The army's radio station immediately blames the FMLN for the crime. The FMLN's Radio Venceremos reports that a witness exists and has identified the assassins as uniformed soldiers. San Salvador's Archbishop Rivera y Damas declares, "They are the same ones who assassinated Monseñor Romero and the ones for whom 70,000 deaths are not enough."
Later in the morning, members of the military's Special Investigation Unit (UEI), part of the Criminal Acts Investigation Commission, arrive to search for clues. In the afternoon, Archbishop Rivera and Bishop Rosa Chávez hear from a passing military car with speakers: "We continue killing communists. Ellacuría and Martin Baró have already fallen. Give up. We are the First Brigade."
Father Jose Marfa Tojeira, the Jesuit Provincial, issues a communique: 'We demand of the Government of the Republic that the investigation be not only exhaustive but prompt and diligent. The fact that the zone where the collective assassination was perpetrated was strongly militarized in the hours during the curfew, and that the execution of the massacre lasted close to half an hour, forces us to think it possible that sufficient clues have been left so as to come to a rapid clarification."
17- President Cristiani declares: "We are committed to an in-depth investigation of the case and to punishing the guilty, whoever they may be. We will prosecute these groups of assassins to the full extent of the law."
19- In his Sunday homily, Archbishop Rivera says: The assassins are from the armed forces or sources close to them."
20 - Lucía Barrera de Cerna, a Jesuit employee and the witness said to have seen uniformed men from a nearby house the night of the crime, relates her testimony to Marfa Julia Hernandez, head of the Archbishop's Legal Protection Office, after which she seeks refuge in the Spanish Embassy.
23 - After repeating her testimony to Salvadoran legal authorities, and at her own express desire, Lucía Cerna travels to Miami. She is accompanied by FBI agents, who have promised the US Embassy in El Salvador to deliver her to Jesuit priests waiting for her in Miami. Upon arrival, however, Lucía is turned over to the police, who, on the pretext of guaranteeing her security, hold her virtually incommunicado for eight days. During this time she is interrogated continually by US agents in the presence of Lt. Col< Rivas Mejía, head of the UEI. She later says she was submitted to a lie detector six times and threatened with return to El Salvador, which ultimately forced her to retract her first declarations. Pressure from US Jesuits finally frees her.
28 - The Archbishop's Legal Protection Office issues an official report which concludes that the characteristics of the operation—with many shots fired in a strongly militarized zone during a curlew—make it possible to establish that "those responsible were military elements belonging to the armed forces."
In this period many people express their solidarity with the UCA financially. Among them the US Embassy in El Salvador offers the Society of Jesus $1,000 in assistance. The Jesuits are asked to appear personally at the Embassy to retrieve the aid, since they would also have to fill out some 20 forms. The Jesuits do not pick up the money.
December 19891 - The New York Times reports that Gen. Maxwell Thurman, head of the US Southern Command in Panama, met with the Salvadoran Army High Command to insist that they carry out a full-scale investigation.
4 - Officials of the US Embassy meet with ARENA'S Roberto D'Aubisson to discuss his possible responsibility in the crime. He denies any involvement and agrees to submit to a lie detector test.
6 - The head of the US House of Representatives names a Special Commission of 19 Democrats, headed by Joe Moakley, to follow up the case.
Col. Ponce, head of the Salvadoran Chiefs of Staff, denies any connection between the assassinations and the armed forces "as an institution."
8 - President Cristiani declares to the press that the assassination "is part of an effort to discredit the government and the armed forces* and announces a $250,000 reward to anyone who "consciously or against his will participated in the crime and declares as such," adding that anyone who does so will be exonerated from punishment and guaranteed security, together with his family, in another country.
10 - Archbishop Rivera accuses the US Embassy in El Salvador of not having provided the previously promised protection to witness Lucía Cerna. The president of the US Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities writes to Secretary of State James Baker protesting the Embassy's efforts to "discredit the testimony" of Cerna. To date, hers is the only testimony offering concrete evidence against the military.
11- The Salvadoran and US press publish in detail what happened to Cerna in Miami. The Jesuit Provincial declares that she was "submitted to psychological torture."
According to a US Embassy report, the UEI has identified the army unit that carried out the raid on the UCA on November 13 as from the Atlacatl Immediate Reaction Battalion. The elite Atlacatl Battalion was founded in 1981 by US advisers and always trained by them.
12- Vice Minister of Security Col. Montano tells the national media that the FMLN is responsible for the crime. They knew they were beaten on November 16 and that's why they did it." He accuses Legal Protection's Marfa Julia Hernández of counselling Lucía Cerna to say that the assassins were military and accuses the bishops of "sympathizing with the terrorist left." [On July 4, Col. Montano had accused the UCA of terrorism and on August 21 accused Father Ellacuría specifically.]
The Society of Jesus in El Salvador issues a communique declaring that it is "hardly being informed of the investigation by those carrying it out" [the military's UEI]. The Jesuits also call the investigation methods used on Lucía Cerna in Miami "abusive, unjust and inadmissable." They charge that her contradictions resulted from "exhaustion, nervousness and insecurity* due to the interrogation, "which would have been considered criminal in the United States if the witness were North American, even if a suspect in a crime."
14-Solicitor General Mauricio Colorado states that he will ask the Bishops Conference to investigate the bishops and Maria Julia Hernandez for "obstruction of justice."
From this date forward, the Salvadoran government will send seven official delegations to sixteen countries to say that the FMLN is responsible for the crime.
19-For the first time the military investigators approach the Jesuit Provincial to inform him about the progress of the case.
30 - Air Force chief Gen. Bustillo tells the press that Archbishop Rivera and Bishop Rosa Chavez "are playing the role of the FMLN's useful idiots."
By the end of December the UEI has made 385 ballistics tests and an equal number of fingerprint tests of army members in the UCA area the night of the crime, and have taken 86 sworn declarations from military personnel. This is not made public at the time.
January 19502 - Maj. Eric Buckland, of the US military advisory group in El Salvador, confesses to his superior, Col. William Hunter, that on December 20 he received information from Col. Avilés, a Salvadoran friend, that Military Academy director Col. Guillermo Benavides had gone to Lt. Col. Rivas [chief of investigations of the UEI and Lucía Cerna's interrogator in Miami] immediately after the crime to confess his responsibility in it and ask for help—which was evidently provided in the form of a cover-up. Hunter promptly passes Buckland's information on to the US Embassy and to the Salvadoran Army High Command. This is not made public until June 1990.
US Ambassador in El Salvador William Walker assures US congressional investigators visiting the country that "there is no evidence implicating military personnel" and that the assassins "could have been guerrillas dressed in army uniforms."
3 - Maj. Buckland repeats his declarations under oath. President Cristiani declares to the national media that "the FMLN's participation is now discarded."
5- Minister of Defense Col. Larios calls on five officers and two civilians to form an Honor Commission to work with the UEI on the Jesuit case.
6- Buckland is relieved as adviser and sent back to the United States (apart from him, no other US military or intelligence adviser has contributed any information to the case).
7- In a four-minute presentation on radio and TV hook-up, President Cristiani says the crime has been solved and that "some elements of the armed forces" are involved. He mentions the Atlacatl Battalion, but gives no names. This initiates a week of generic and ambiguous declarations which only make it more difficult to reconstruct the development of the deeds. Many analysts later conclude that Cristdani's statement was precipitated by Buckland's declaration and the fact that the US Embassy "now knew."
8- A White House spokesperson states his "satisfaction^ with the advances of the in vestigation, concluding that "Cristiani has demonstrated great courage."
9- Salvadoran Minister of Information Mauricio Sandoval states that 115 members of the armed forces and 103 civilians have been interrogated by the UEI. He gives no names of possible indictments, but announces that the case will be resolved within 72 hours.
10 - President Cristiani tells the press that the Atlacatl troops are not under arrest but are “concentrated" to be investigated. In the United States, Senator Christopher Dodd protests that "nobody is giving me names."
11- A Reuters cable mentions Col. Benavides' name for the first time, saying he is "under investigation."
12 After journalists wait all day for Minister Sandoval, he announces that the 72-hour period should not be taken literally. He denies any military pressures or coup rumors.
13 - In a pre-taped four-minute speech on radio and TV hook-up, President Cristiani announces the names of nine military men "put at the disposal of the judicial system," including Col. Benavides and a lieutenant from the Military Academy, as well as an other lieutenant^ a first lieutenant, two sergeants, a corporal and two privates from the Atlacatl Battalion. The ninth, also a private from Atlacatl, deserted in December and has not been heard from since. [Both the UEI investigators and the Honor Commission members will deny that they provided the nine names.] Col. Benavides, who would have given the order, was director of the Military Academy at the time of the crime, thus in command of the zone where the UCA is located. The 44-year-old former head of intelligence of the Chiefs of Staff has a relatively clean human rights record and has never had a reputation for repression.
15 - Criminal Judge Ricardo Zamora is assigned to the trial in this new phase.
ARENA president Calder6n Sol tells the Salvadoran media that if the investigation is carried to its conclusion, it will get to the FMLN. "Everything," he says, "speaks of a conspiracy between the FMLN and members of the army." Vice President Merino declares that "the conspiracy theory must be studied."
16- Exactly two months after the crime, the eight armed forces members appear before Judge Zamora to testify in a pre-trial hearing. Benavides, in a declaration that takes nearly two and a half hours, denies any responsibility for the crime. The only other declaration this day is that of one lieutenant.
Cristiani announces to the press that both indicted lieutenants have given extra-judicial declarations to the National Police in which each stated that Benavides gave the order for the assassinations. The operation can be reconstructed through these and other declarations to the National Police on January 13, which were published in their entirety:
Lts. Espinosa [of the Military Academy] and Mendoza [who led the November 13 raid on the UCA] and First Lt. Guevara Cerritos receive orders to appear before Col. Benavides at 11:00 pm on November 15. He tells them that "this is a them-or-us situation. Within the sector, we have the university where Ellacuría is. You [Espinosa] made the inspection and your people know the place. Use the same method [as that day] and you have to eliminate him. And I don't want witnesses, Lt. Mendoza will go with you as head of the operation so there are no problems." He adds that "they are the intellectuals who have led the guerrillas for a long time."
Forty-seven military men participate in the operation. Pvt. Oscar Amaya is given an AK-47, the semi-automatic rifle used by the FMLN; Mendoza tells him, "You're the key man." The men form three concentric circles [only those in the smallest one, who directly acted in the crime, were indicted]. While some bang on the doors of the second-story rooms, others enter the first floor and the Monseñor Romero Center, burning and destroying it. Ellacuría opens one door and Segundo Montes another. It is probably when Martin Bar6 opens the chapel door that Lucía Cerna sees the five military men and hears the priest say, This is an injustice, you
are earn on."
Five of the priests, minus Joaquin Lopez who is still in his room, are taken to the garden, where they are ordered to lie on the ground. Shortly, Lt. Espinosa, pointing at them, asks Sgt. Avalos, "When are you planning to proceed?" Avalos shoots Amando and Moreno; Amaya kills Ellacuría, Montes and Martín Bar6. Sgt. Zapata, who is guarding Julia Elba and her daughter, shoots them. At this moment Father L6pez comes out of his room, begging them not to kill him. An unidentified soldier shoots him, then Sierra— the deserter—shoots the women again, who are still gasping. Corp. Perez Vasquez again shoots Father Lopez, who had only been wounded. Shortly before the lifting of the curfew, the command unit returns to the Military Academy, mission completed.
19 - Judge Zamora, after hearing the eight, announces that there is enough proof to order their provisional detention. With this the court proceedings officially begin.
The Jesuit Provincial points out that the process will be "insufficient as long as it does not reach the intellectual authors," stating that he does not believe that Benavides, given his record, was the intellectual author.
22 - The military defense lawyers appeal the judge's decision to detain the indicted men, arguing that the law requires extra-judicial interrogations to take place with 72 hours of arrest. The accused were arrested January 5 [after Buckland's revelation] and not interrogated until January 13.
26 - In his first interview after the assassination, Roberto D*Aubisson "laments" the crime but declares that it was *an isolated action," and thus It is not useful to continue investigating the armed forces."
29 - Judge Zamora rejects the defense appeal to free the indicted men.
30 - Rubén Zamora, a leader of the Democratic Convergence, declares that the blame the ilitary men have accepted to date has to do with guaranteeing that the United States not cut military aid, calling this "an offense to the memory of the Jesuits." [Shortly before the*January 13 announce ment of the indicted men's names, several top officers are transferred from their posts. Col.
Guzman Aguilar, chief of military intelligence (DNI) during the offensive and former director of the National Police—from which he was removed for "excessive repression"—is made military attache" in Costa Rica. Col. Cerna Flores, head of operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the offensive, becomes general manager of the state communications system, ANTEL. Cerna Flores was one of
Benavides' immediate superiors at the time of the crime, together with Vice Minister of Defense Zepeda. According to Lt. Espinosa, it was Cerna who gave him the order to search the UCA. Sgt. Zapata said he killed the two women because Zepeda, a long-time friend of Benavides, radioed Zapata and said, "Them too."]
February 19902 - The Washington Post reveals [as does The Miami Herald two days later] that two meetings of high-level officers were held both before and after the assassinations. In the first, from 7:30 t/> 10-30 pm on November 15, 30 officers participated, among them Benavides [and, according to later sources, US military advisers]. In this meeting, it was decided to use artillery and air fire in San Salvador and to kill leaders of the left and destroy their "command" centers. At the end of the meeting the officers held hands and asked for God's help. They then called Cristiani to authorize the military escalation in the capital, which he did. The second meeting was held on November 16, at 8:00 am, in a building the DNI shares with the CIA. When Capt. Herrera interrupted that meeting to say that Ellacuría had been killed, the officers "applauded* and "shouted with joy." The revelation of these meetings became the immediate object of investigation.
8 - Undersecretary of State for Latin American Affairs Bernard Aronson confirms the meetings. [The next day Col. Ponce calls them "routine." In later declarations, 16 officers who participated in the last one deny having applauded and Capt. Herrera declares that he learned of Ellacuría's assassination by radio.]
The defense attorneys say they are "very concerned about the judge's slowness" in writing up the testifiers' declarations. The court has a list of 200 people to be questioned.
11- Fifteen US congresspeople, ten of whom are on the Moakley Commission, arrive in San Salvador to conduct investigations.
15- Cristiani declares that "no evidence exists to suggest the involvement of other military personnel in the assassination."
16 - US Ambassador William Walker declares that it is "optimistic [to think] that military aid will not be cut."
22 - The Washington Post reports that Benavides is living in a luxury apartment in the National Police headquarters and has been seen at the beach, in an elegant hotel belonging to the army. [Six days later Secretary of State James Baker states that the US government is indignant at this and has communicated the fact to the Salvadoran government.]
March l9903- The defense requests that the case be transferred to the Santa Tecía court, since the UCA is in that jurisdiction. This would mean changing Judge Zamora and months of delay in the investigations. The defense will continue to insist on this point until July.
7 - Strong but unfounded rumors circulate in San Salvador that Judge Zamora has been assassinated.
20 - Of the 200 subpoenaed testifiers, 75 have been questioned; no new evidence appears.
24- In an interview with The Washing ton Post, Cristiani raises doubts that Benavides will be processed and recognizes that he is living in a "luxury cell.* He says he is disappointed by this, but that "the armed forces have their rules."
April 199022 - In the CBS-TV program "60 Minutes," retired Col. Sigefrido Ochoa Perez, an experienced field commander with a very polemical career within the army and ARENA, exchanges the following words with journalist Ed Bradley:
Bradley: "Is it conceivable that Col. Benavides, by himself, could have decided to assassinate the Jesuits?" Ochoa: "No, I don't think so. Knowing him, he is a man who could never carry out, or even conceive of, an action such as assassinating the Jesuits. Benavides acted under orders. He didn't act alone." Bradley: "Some members of the armed forces have said that Benavides misunderstood the order and that perhaps he crumbled under the pressure. Is this possible?" Ochoa: "No, definitely not. I think it was all planned beforehand." Bradley: "You have said that you do not believe that Col. Benavides acted alone. Correct?" Ochoa: "Correct." Bradley: "Did he receive assistance from higher officers in the Salvadoran armed forces?" Ochoa: "Correct." Bradley: "And they planned the assassination of the Jesuits?" Ochoa: "I believe so."
The declarations, reproduced in the Salvadoran national press and on TV, create a scandal and become a milestone in the investigation.
25- The Boston Globe reveals that four of the accused were trained in the United States and, another four were trained by US advisers in El Salvador; only Benavides was not. [The Pentagon will refuse the Lawyers Committee handling the Jesuits' case in the United States any information about these advisers. It will later become known that the indicted Atlacatl soldiers, and others, were taking a course from US advisers in La Libertad between November 10 and 13, when they were sent to San Salvador under orders signed by Col. Cerna Flores. Their first mission, two hours after arriving in the capital, was to raid the UCA; their second was the assassination. A few hours after the crime, the command unit was transferred to another part of San Salvador. The advisers who had been training them were the same Green Berets who were trapped in the Sheraton Hotel during the FMLN offensive in that zone of the capital.}
The names are finally made public of the five military and two civilians on the Honor Commission created January 5 to "deduce the responsibilities in the case and clarify the truth in all its magnitude." [What this commission has done or said still remains a mystery*]
30 - After four months of investigation, the "Moakley Report" is released in Washington. It is still the best collection of evidence on the case to date. Judge Zamora will include it in his judicial summary. President Cristiani laments that the report is based "on speculations," since that "hinders the judicial process."
US Ambassador Walker declares his concern about the case's slow process and says that Judge Zamora "has to do more."
May 19902 - The armed forces publish a declaration "emphatically and categorically" rejecting Col. Ochoa's comments on US TV, accusing him of being "prejudiced and irresponsible." [Six days later, Bishop Rosa Chavez will declare to Mexico's La Jornada that "both the Society of Jesus and we have maintained that we do not believe such a barbarous act to be the fruit simply of a decision by Col. Benavides. Now this same opinion is coming from someone who knows the armed institution inside out, Col. Ochoa."
Secretary of State Baker tells the Senate Appropriations Committee that aid to El Salvador will be affected by the development of the Jesuits' case, which, he says, "has become decisive for the history of El Salvador."
4 - Ambassador Walker tells the Lawyers' Committee handling the case in the United States that Judge Zamora "isn't doing anything."
5 - Judge Zamora reports that he subpoenaed the Military Academy's Book of Entries and Departures, which records all movements of that institution, but has been told it is lost.
7 - In a press interview, Vice Minister of Defense Col. Zepeda says that the judge "has no judicial elements to merit his investigating me." [In April 1989 Zepeda accused the UCA of being where the death of Attorney General García Alvarado, killed in an attack, had been plotted. Rep. Moakley will reveal that Zepeda told him in an interview that "it would be an error to blame all the apostles for the actions of Judas."]
9 - Speaking to journalists in Costa Rica, where he is attending President Calder6n's inauguration, Cristiani denies that the Military Academy books are lost. But immediately upon his return to El Salvador he orders a search for them.
16- The Jesuit Provincial declares on Salvadoran TV that he is worried that El Salvador's whole judicial system will be blamed. "In my opinion it is not the guilty party. The system clearly has many weaknesses, but groups stronger than the judicial system which refuse to provide information are creating the main problem."
19- In a written declaration to Judge Zamora, Col. Ochoa restates that he believes Benavides obeyed orders; he describes the process of this type of "planned operation" as follows: "To execute an order, first the information is received, then the situation is evaluated with a support or advisory group; a plan of action is prepared and presented to superiors and then a decision is made which becomes an operational order. The order is implemented by a military unit with sufficient capacity.*
21 - The Jesuit Provincial declares that "a conspiracy at the highest levels exists to avoid the resolution of the case.
Shortly before the US House of Representatives' debate on military aid to El Salvador, Congress' Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus publishes a report in which it presents a "profile" of the Salvadoran army's High Command. The report concludes that 14 of the 15 officers occupying the highest posts have been promoted even though the troops they have commanded have a proven history of human rights violations, and that 11 of those 14 received training from US advisers.
23 - Cristiani announces that the Military Academy's lost Book of Entries and Departures has appeared and that he will hand it over to the judge the next day.
28 - Judge Zamora announces he has learned that Lt. Mendoza, one of the indicted, burned the book on orders from then-Maj. Camilo Hernandez in the first half of December. President Cristiani declares that Hernandez, promoted to lieutenant colonel after the assassination, has indeed removed the books, but only "to protect them."
In the only interview given since his detention [exact date unclear], Col. Benavides says, The crimes were a surprise to me because I knew that Father Ellacuría was saying favorable things about President Cristiani."
June 19901 - Col. Eguizábal, a member of the Honor Commission, appears before Judge Zamora and declares that the commission investigated nothing and questioned no one; it only exhorted a military group to tell the truth.
6 - In testimony lasting three hours, Lt. Mendoza admits having burned 70 books in the Military Academy on Lt. Col. Hernandez's orders. He says this became "routine* after computers were introduced in 1987.
Lt. Col. Linares, commander of the Atlacatl Battalion during the offensive, including the night of the crime, is removed from that post and putin charge of the Military Department of Morazán. Taking leave of his troops, he tells them: "You should remember that in front of us we have the terrorist combatant, but behind that combatant are intelligent sectors which use all kinds of lies and traps to gain terrain." [Linares was judicially cited as one of the three responsible for the massacre of 70 campesinos in Las Hojas in February 1983.]
15- Lt. Col. Camilo Hernandez appears before Judge Zamora and denies having ordered the burning of the Military Academy books.
26- The Jesuit Provincial denounces on Salvadoran TV that efforts are being made to block the investigation leading to the intellectual authors. "There are a series of contra dictions that make one think the case will end with the nine black sheep.*
27- In his appearance before the judge, Col. Aviles, referred to by Maj. Buckland as the friend who told him of Benavides' responsibility, denies everything the North American said, including being his friend. "You'd want a crystal ball to know why this major gave that declaration. I prefer to think he was a little crazy from the war."
The House of Representatives votes 308-117 in favor of a 50% cut in military aid to El Salvador. [In 10 years of war, the United States sent El Salvador $15billionin military and economic aid; US congresspeople have demonstrated on various occasions that for every $4 of total aid, $3 go directly or indirectly to the war.}
29 - One of the prosecuting attorneys on the case admits that Aviles' declaration complicates the process. "Actually, "he says, "there is a 10% possibility that a judgment will be brought against the accused, and 0% that they will be declared guilty."
July 19904 - Ambassador Walker expresses "concern" that the trial "is going very slowly."
11- Col. Benavides' declaration to the judge lasts six hours. He insists he is innocent, that he did not give the order for the search of the UCA on November 13 or for the crime two days later. He says that the order for the raid came from the Chiefs of Staff, which was permanently connected to the Military Academy's radio network.
Undersecretary of State Bernard Aronson visits El Salvador and declares that the United States will only be satisfied with a "full-scale investigation" and an "impartial trial," [On July 31, New York's Village Voice will report that Aronson went to El Salvador to present a "curt message" to the High Command that it turn over the intellectual authors of the crime.)
12- President Cristiani in a press conference admits for the first time that the raid on the UCA was ordered by Col. Ponce, head of the Chiefs of Staff, and that he himself had authorized it. He justifies the raid on the grounds that arms and uniforms had been previously been found at the UCA.
14 - The Jesuit Provincial declares to the Salvadoran press that he believes Ponce and Cristiani had been "deceived by their own military," explaining that Ponce has stated be authorized the raid at 8:50 pm, when it was actually carried out at 6:30 pm. He says they asked for authorization to conduct the search, but only after having done it. He expresses surprise about the supposed weapons at the UCA. "I have had conversations with Ponce and with Cristiani and they never mentioned weapons." He surmises that this is also "part of that general deception by some military personnel."
17 - President Cristiani laments the Provincial's statements, calling them "un-constructive speculations.* He reaffirms that the raid was to investigate if the FMLN was operating out of the UCA.
22 - Archbishop Rivera says in his Sunday homily that the Jesuit case "is not just one more case, it is the key case," and that "the credibility of the government and of the armed forces depends on its resolution."
27 -Lt. Col, Camilo Hernandez testifies again about the burning of the Military Academy books. His defense lawyer states that no crime can be proven against him "because there was no important information in those books."
August 19906. In declarations to Salvadoran TV the Jesuit Provincial says, "Up to now the judicial system's most important achievement in this investigation is demonstrating that the majority of the members of the armed forces do not want to collaborate."
7- A delegation of 8 congresspeople from the Moakley Commission arrives in El Salvador.
9 - Judge Zamora reports that the US government will not allow Maj. Buckland, whom he has called to testify, to return to El Salvador to clear up the discrepancies. The US government cites the diplomatic immunity that protects military advisers who work in its embassies.
11 - The Society of Jesus for Central America denounces that various US government institutions have documents on the case that they refuse to provide to the lawyers representing the Jesuits in the United States. It speaks of 21 documents retained by the Pentagon's Department of Intelligence for "reasons of national security." The US Embassy spokesperson in El Salvador denies the Jesuits' allegation and says that his government "is sharing all information that could contribute to the case."
15- Congressman Joe Moakley presents preliminary declarations in Washington about his commission's latest visit to El Salvador. "I believe," he says, "that the Salvadoran armed forces' High Command is involved in a conspiracy to obstruct justice in the case of the Jesuits. Salvadoran officers have withheld evidence, destroyed evidence, falsified evidence and on repeated occasions committed perjury in their testimony to the judge. I don't think this could happen without at least the tacit consent of the High Command. Still more important, I think that from the outset the High Command's objective has been to control the investigation and limit the number and rank of officers who take responsibility for the multiple crime. As a result, some individuals who may have direct knowledge of the assassination have been protected from serious investigation/* In the appendix to these declarations, the commission points out some of the military witnesses' many contradictions, concluding that "many members of the armed forces have adopted a Watergate style' attitude in their testimony to the judge, in essence stating that they do not recall having seen, heard or known anything of what happened the night of the
17 - Col. Mauricio Vargas, member of the government commission that negotiated with the FMLN, "totally" rejects Moakley's statements about the military's blockade of the investigation, as does the defense minister, calling them "totally false speculations."
20 - President Cristiani, the minister and vice minister of defense, the vice minister of security and the head of the Chiefs of Staff meet with Judge Zamora for four hours to express their "total disposition" to collaborate so that the process will be "totally above-board." Salvadoran analysts link this to upcoming Senate debates on military aid to El Salvador in which the vote could be affected by the Moakley Commission's conclusions.
September 19907 - President Cristiani, renouncing his privilege to make a written declaration, appears before the judge for questioning. Regarding the military officers' meeting the night of November 15, he says he arrived after they had already concluded and that he authorized the use of artillery and aviation to dislodge the FMLN from their positions in the
10- Maj. Chavez Cáceres, head of the armed forces' press committee, appears before the judge to offer data about who was in charge of the radio hook-up that functioned during the offensive. He denies responsibility in the anti-UCA campaign heard on the hook-up in the days prior to the crime.
19 - Officers of the High Command begin to follow Cristiani's example of renouncing their privilege to provide a written declaration. Vice Minister of Defense Col. Zepeda appears before the judge and states that Benavides "had responsibility" in the assassination "because he was commander of the zone where it was committed" and that at that time Benavides received his orders from the Chiefs of Staff, specifically either Col. Cerna Flores or Col. Ponce.
25 - Col. Cerna Flores appears and states that he was "a mere transmitter of orders from the head of the Chiefs of Staff—that is, Col, Ponce.
27 - Col. Linares, commander of the Atlacatl Battalion during the offensive, appears and says that the command unit that carried out the crime was not under his orders but under those of Col. Ponce.
October 19902 - Maj. Buckland, whom the US government has finally permitted to testify, refutes Col. Aviles' June 27 testimony by maintaining all that he said on January 2 and 3. Buckland refuses to answer defense attorney questions, alleging that he will only respond when he has one foot on the plane that will return him to his country.
A Col. Canjura appears and testifies that during the offensive the armed forces' operative control was under orders not of the Chiefs of Staff but of the Tactical Operations Center (COT), which was taking turns in command. The existence of the COT, hidden by other officers, opens a new flank of investigation into the intellectual authors.
The two secretaries who worked in the UEI questioning at the outset of the case declare to the judge that Benavides was questioned with his defense lawyer present, which is illegal according to Salvadoran law. The prosecuting attorneys declare that the UEI, on the case between November and January, "functioned from Lt. Espinosa on down, but not from Benavides on up."
3 - Democratic Convergence leader Guillermo Ungo calls President Cristiani´s lack of capacity "ever more disappointing," noting that he is playing into the most hardline positions. Ungo's proof of this is that the Jesuit case is not being resolved.
The US Embassy releases a communique stating that President Cristiani has promised President Bush to "go all the way" in the Jesuit case.
6 - Col. Guzman Aguilar, head of military intelligence during the offensive, appears before the judge and denies any participation in the crime or any relation between the assassinations and his transfer to Costa Rica as military attache.
10 - Benavides' defense lawyers and those of the other eight indicted declare that the case has been insufficiently analyzed and that the results support the position of the defense from the outset: "From the technical-legal point of view, with regard to proof, there is no concrete evidence against the indicted yet. In other words, the detained, including Benavides, are innocent."
18- Rep. Moakley accuses the US Embassy in El Salvador of withholding a videotape and Maj. Buckland's sworn testimony to the FBI for 10 months. The UEI, which received the material last week, claims Buckland testified that Col. Ponce, now El Salvador's defense minister, sent Col. Avilés to dissuade Benavides from taking action against the priests. Ponce denies any prior knowledge of the murders. [Moakley's own request to review this evidence was denied by the Embassy and the FBI.]
19 - The US Senate votes 74-25 in favor of cutting military aid to El Salvador by 50% for 1991, which will reduce it to $42.5 million. One of several conditions that could prohibit all military aid is if President Bush determines that "the Government of El Salvador has failed to conduct a professional investigation into and prosecution of those responsible for the murder of the Jesuits." The aid could also be denied if Bush determines that the government has refused to participate in negotiations or restored totally if he decides the FMLN has so refused or has jeopardized the government by a military offensive. [Bush, who had lobbied for a version requiring the rebels to agree to a cease-fire before aid could be cut, to veto the bill, but did not because it was part of the total foreign aid bill which contained an item key to the Persian Gulf situation.]
21- In his Sunday homily, Bishop Rosa Chávez says the murder of the Jesuits "awakened the consciousness" of the United States to the need for profound changes in the Salvadoran armed forces."
In a press interview during the celebration of Ignatius of Loyola's 500th birthday in Spain, Jesuit Superior General Peter Hans Kolvenbach says, "All this insistence on a just verdict as to the authors of the crime has no other goal than to finally assure people's rights in El Salvador, since thousands of innocent citizens have been executed there with no process whatever."
November 19905 - The military aid bill for El Salvador is signed into law with no significant changes to the Senate version. Sen. Dodd, one of the bill's sponsors, says it gives President Bush "a great deal of discretion."