One general in court, one general dies

As previously reported, a deportation trial is being held in Florida, where the US government is seeking to deport General Eugenio Vides Casanova, former head of the Salvadoran National Guard and former Defense Minister.

The Center for Justice and Accountability, which has previously brought civil suits against General Vides on behalf of torture victims, has a summary of the first round of testimony which recently concluded. Many of the witnesses are the same ones who have testified in other US court proceedings about crimes against humanity during the civil war, including former Ambassador Robert White. One of the witnesses was Stanford University professor Terry Karl who testified:
In Professor Karl’s opinion, Vides' pattern of conduct—his promotion and protection of known human rights abusers, failure to inspect and close down torture chambers, obstruction of investigations, refusal to dismantle death squads, and personal visitation of prisoners undergoing torture—constituted active participation in torture.
The trial has paused and will resume on May 24.

As this trial goes on, another figure from the Salvadoran military leadership during the twelve year civil war has died. General Rene Emilio Ponce died this week. General Ponce was found by the UN Truth Commission to have ordered the 1989 killing of 6 Jesuit priests at the University of Central America. The Washington Post story about his death reports:
Unrepentant, apparently, to the end, Gen. Ponce always maintained that he and his 32,000-member army fulfilled their mission to stem “communist aggression.”

Although he rarely discussed the matter in public, Gen. Ponce told a Salvadoran interviewer in 2009 that he did not give the order to kill the Jesuits and that suggestions that he did so were part of a leftist conspiracy to besmirch his name.

“It is unjust, because I dedicated 30 years of my life to defend my country, and in the most difficult moments, I led the armed forces strategically to defend a system threatened by an internationally backed communist aggression,” he said.

“I regret nothing that I did in benefit of my nation . . . defending the institutionalism of the state and its constitutional system,” he added. “The Jesuits were victims of the circumstances.”
And still in El Salvador, no judicial proceeding has ever sought to bring to justice those in high command responsible for human rights abuses during the war. Benjamin Cuellar, head of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America, has a passionate plea at this link for the end of such impunity and for a focus on justice for the victims.


Ponce died a coward, afraid to admint his crimes.