El Salvador: the process of truth, justice and reparations has been fulfilled

The Jesuits in El Salvador have asked the government to commute the sentence of former Colonel Guillermo Benavides. Benavides and another individual were convicted of the 1989 UCA murders. Given the international outrage at the Jesuits’ murders, the Salvadoran government hoped convictions of medium-level participants would help them overcome the crisis.

Benavides was released shortly after beginning his prison term as a result of the 1993 amnesty. However, he returned to jail last year after the country’s Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional.

Fr. Andreu Oliva said “We make this petition on the basis that, from our perspective, the process of truth, justice and reparations has been fulfilled.” According to Father Jose Maria Tojeira,

“We are aware of his regret and his admission of the error,” Tojeira said, adding that the 74-year-old ex-soldier “no longer represents a danger to the Salvadoran people.”

Tojeira also said the Jesuits believe Benavides is a “scapegoat” for those who ordered the massacre and were never punished. The Jesuits consider the case against the killers closed but continue to seek clarity on the intellectual authors of the crime.

I’m not sure how this decision works in favor of “clarity on the intellectual authors of the crime.” The overturning of the amnesty law was not supposed to help Benavides go free.

In Guatemala, transitional justice against the intellectual authors of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity was built by first going after foot soldiers. They convicted soldiers who participated in massacres, such as the one at Dos Erres. Once they demonstrated that the military had been responsible for carrying out large scale massacres, it was easier to move on to Rios Montt and other intellectual authors.