Arrests of officers in Jesuit case roil El Salvador

Last weekend, El Salvador's police arrested four former military officers sought under an international arrest warrant issued by a court in Spain in the case of the 1989 Jesuit murders.   El Salvador's police captured only 4 of the 17 military officers sought by Spain.   Twelve of the officers have gone into hiding, and El Salvador's police say they could not locate them.   The police blame their inability to locate the officers on the delay and confusion caused by El Salvador's courts in interpreting whether the warrant through Interpol could actually be enforced.  One additional officer had been jailed in the US for immigration crimes and is now being extradited to Spain.

Lawyers have petitioned the country's Supreme Judicial Court to free the men.   It appears that the final decision of whether the ex-soldiers will be extradited to Spain rests in the hands of the court.  (There doesn't seem to be much of an effort to find the missing twelve).

The lawyer for some of the officers asserted that the Jesuit murders were not a crime against humanity, but just simple homicides for which there had already been a trial and judgment for persons involved.   This description of the murders as "simple homicides": brought scorn in social media, including from blogger Hunnapuh, who reminded readers that these killings were part of a military operation, with the specific intention to kill the priests and possible witnesses, carried out with military precision and a criminal fury against defenseless persons.

The ARENA party, which governed the country at the time of the murders has spoken out against the arrests.   ARENA warns that the country will be come more polarized as a result of this proceeding.

A statement from the officers sought by Spain declares their innocence and opposition to being subject to justice in a Spanish court.  The statement was circulated by Norman Quijano, former ARENA mayor of San Salvador and unsuccessful candidate for president, who described it as a "message from our heroic and valiant soldiers to the nation."    Retired generals threw their support behind their colleagues.

The president of El Salvador called a closed doors emergency meeting of all political parties to discuss the schisms in the country over the arrests of the former officers.   The government declared it was acting in compliance with its obligations under international treaties when it apprehended the officers pursuant to the Interpol warrant.   It seems clear that the president wants to distance himself from the extradition decision and to simply let the Supreme Judicial Court decide the matter.