Date: Tue, 7 Apr 98 16:25:25 CDT
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Salvadoran Soldiers: We Were Ordered to Kill US Nuns
Weekly News Update on the Americas, No. 427, 5 April 1998
According to a front-page article in the New York Times, four imprisoned soldiers of the Salvadoran National Guard now say they received "orders from above" to carry out the 1980 rape and murder of four US women religious workers as they were driving away from Comalapa International Airport. The soldiers, who are serving 30 year sentences after their convictions in 1984, made the admissions in interviews with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, a New York City-based organization that represents the families of the four murder victims.
Human rights activists have always maintained that the killings were carried out under the direction of military authorities, while the US and Salvadoran governments have insisted that the soldiers carried out the killings on their own initiative. In 1993 a report by a Truth Commission set up by the United Nations concluded that Col. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, director of the National Guard in 1980, and Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia, then Salvadoran defense minister, were responsible for covering up the crime. Both have been granted residence in the US and are now living in Florida.
Asked about the soldiers' statement, US State Department spokesperson James Rubin said: "These apparent confessions come some 17 years after the murders were committed. We are unclear about the veracity or the possible motivations behind them." A State Department official who refused to be identified said he was unable to explain why Col. Vides Casanova and Gen. Garcia were allowed to settle in the US, adding: "This is not really in our hands anymore." Robert White, who was US ambassador to El Salvador at the time of the killings, said it is "totally outrageous for the US government to have singled out four guys who were following orders and to insist they get punished at the same time it is practically conniving to get the people who were the intellectual authors of this terrible incident off scot free." [New York Times 4/3/98]
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