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Óscar Romero, El Mozote Cases Reopened in El Salvador

LADB Article ID: 80325
Category/Department: El Salvador
Date: 2017-06-22
By: Benjamin Witte-Lebhar

It has taken decades, but authorities in El Salvador are finally taking steps to establish a measure of accountability regarding gross human rights violations committed during the country’s civil war (1980-1992), which claimed an estimated 75,000 lives and left another 8,000 missing.Two cases in particular are challenging the let-sleeping-dogs-lie mentality that long characterized El Salvador’s approach to such matters: the assassination in 1980 of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero, and the massacre, the following year, of as many as 1,000 civilians in and around the village of El Mozote, in the northeastern department of Morazán. The latest move toward belated justice came May 18, when a judge in San Salvador officially reopened the decades-old Romero case and called for charges to be brought against the principal surviving suspect, Álvaro Rafael Saravia, a former Air Force pilot. The move to reopen the Romero case came eight months after another Salvadoran judge, Alberto Guzmán of the Second Court of San Francisco Gotera in Morazán, launched a judicial investigation into the El Mozote massacre, which took place over several days in December 1981. In both the Romero and El Mozote cases, pressure to pursue the alleged perpetrators had been building for years. Local rights groups have campaigned tirelessly for justice in these and other war-era crimes, such as the murders in 1989 of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter.

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