Conclusion of historic week of testimony in El Mozote case
Friday concluded an historic week of testimony in the El Mozote massacre case. The court heard from two expert witnesses regarding the responsibility of the military officer defendants. While most of the prior testimony in this case has dealt with the horrific events of the days of December 1981 in the hamlet of El Mozote and surrounding communities, this testimony dealt with the command responsibility of the former military leaders now on trial and the broader context of the war against a civilian population being waged by the Salvadoran military. Importantly, this testimony also brought into sharp focus the important (and shameful) role of the US in motivating and covering up this massacre.
Karl was asked by one lawyer "Why were children killed?" She responded "As a person with a family , I can't understand it." She continued, for the military, in its logic, a child could grow up to be a witness. Their command, Karl had testified, was "leave no witnesses."
In another answer, the professor stated her belief that Domingo Monterrosa, commander of the elite Atlacatl Battalion, was surprised at the quantity of people when he arrived by helicopter in El Mozote. According to Karl, he probably arrived in the first instance just to see if the area was secured. The troops had pulled people out of their houses, let them return, and then pulled them out again, suggesting the units did not know what to do prior to Monterrosa's arrival. There were too many people to be interrogating them all.
Karl testified, "I don’t think there was any way he could order 'leave no witnesses' on his own account. There are interviews with him, by militares and journalists, where he said that if you want to know what happened at Mozote, 'ask [Minister of Defense] Garcia'."
Karl believes that Garcia subsequently lied because he knew the implications of his responsibility for actions which “shock the conscience” of humanity.
One new line of questioning came from the attorney general's office when Karl was asked about funders of the Salvadoran war. Karl said that she had not prepared to answer this question of funding which was outside the scope of her report, but indicated that besides the aid from the governments of the US and Chile, there was ample proof that private sector actors had also provided support. Roberto D'Aubuisson, extreme right wing leader of death squads, made frequent trips to Miami to see the so-called "Miami millionaires." Supporters were often connected with the World Anti—Communist League.
Karl indicated that names of funders of activities from the right wing could also be found in an article by Carlos Dada published in El Faro titled How We Killed Archbishop Romero. Here is the relevant excerpt from that article:
According to declassified documents from the U.S. Department of State, [Roberto “Bobby”] Daglio spent the early eighties meeting with other businessmen from the extreme right in a group called the “Miami Six,” which funded the illegal operations of D´Aubuisson’s group. The latter engaged in terrorism: it ordered murders and kidnappings, set off explosives and funded death squads. Its aim was to destroy any attempt at reform in El Salvador and to finish off all the communists.
According to State Department documents from 1981, group members also included the owner of the rabidly right-wing Salvadoran daily El Diario de Hoy (identified in some documents as “Viera Altamirano” or “Enrique Viera Altamirano” and in others simply as Enrique Altamirano, who is still the director of the newspaper); Luis Escalante; Arturo Muyshondt [in this case, former U.S. Ambassador Robert White admitted in an interview with El Faro that he made a mistake with Mr. Muyshondt. "I am sure the source meant to mention his brother, Roberto Muyshondt”] and the Salaverría brothers (Julio and Juan Ricardo).
Daglio, along with Enrique Altamirano founded the “Freedom Foundation” or Fundación para la Libertad, in Miami. They hired Fraser Associates to carry out lobbying efforts in Washington. Fraser promised to change the United States’ perception of El Salvador, which was being influenced by “sensational journalists who headline the massacre of American nuns and photograph military excesses” rather than the “significant efforts by the private business sector to respond to the legitimate aspirations and interests of the Salvadoran people.”
The cross-examination of Karl by lawyers for the defendants followed a couple of lines. One set of questions asked about the various juntas which were governing El Salvador in the early 1980's, in light of a defense theory that the armed forces were under the command and control of the junta. Karl refused to move from her position that in military matters, the Minister of Defense and the High Command ultimately held all the power.
A second line was to point to responsibility of the US. Karl acknowledges that the US has "great responsibility" for events which transpired during El Salvador's civil war. But it is not clear that US support can function to exonerate these defendants.
The third line was probing Karl's sources for her opinions. These questions pointed out how much work Karl had done which took place before she had been sworn in as an expert witness (for almost 20 years or more prior, in fact). They pointed out where she was relying on anonymous sources or relying on reports prepare by human rights organizations or other authors. Presumably these questions plan to set up a future argument about the admissibility of Karl's opinions under Salvadoran law based on the types of sources.
Asked how she felt about her expert work, Karl testified “It was an honor to use my capabilities as an expert in the service of this country."
As Carlos Dada, founder of El Faro noted in an online event Thursday night, of fundamental importance for the country is that even the defense is no longer arguing about the fact that a massacre occurred. For decades the ongoing myths of the disinformation campaign continued to circulate in El Salvador that there had been no massacre, or that those killed had been FMLN combatants. Today, the defense is arguing to eliminate individual responsibility of particular military officers, but the fundamental fact that the Salvadoran armed forces committed this atrocity is now acknowledged.