Extradition request threatens to reopen civil war wounds in El Salvador
Nine former military officials are fighting extradition to Spain over the killings of six Jesuits during El Salvador's civil war. Salvadoran opinion is divided over whether to reopen old wounds.
At various times El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, former President Alfredo Cristiani, the business association ANEP, and others have voiced their concerns about the potential consequences of extraditing the nine former military officials involved in the murder of the Central American University (UCA) martyrs or opening old wounds in the Salvadoran courts. Gerardo Arbaiza at Contrapunto begins to tackle the question of what happens if El Salvador does not.Skip to next paragraph
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What happens to El Salvador's relationship with Spain? Spain is one of El Salvador's largest foreign aid donors. Between 2006 and 2009, Spain donated over $200 million to fund a variety of development projects in the country. The Spanish government has supported projects related to the courts, government institutions, and NGOs that could be adversely affected by how El Salvador handles the proceedings. And it's not just relations with Spain; a decision by El Salvador to not do anything about the alleged war criminals might have reverberations throughout the rest of the European Union.
Benjamin Cuellar at the UCA says that whatever decision the court makes might affect how El Salvador is seen throughout the world, especially given what has been going on in Guatemala where the administration of President Alvaro Colom has taken important strides to advance the cause of justice by arresting and bringing perpetrators of civil war massacres before the courts. How bad does it look for El Salvador when its neighboring "failed state" is strong enough to bring human rights violators before the courts? That says nothing about the trials that have been held or are ongoing in Argentina, Peru, and Chile.
As I said the other day, I hope that Spain's judicial proceedings will kick start a process in El Salvador. Not everyone who committed a human rights violation before and during the conflict has to spend the rest of their life in prison, but there needs to be a good faith effort on the part of the government to hold the intellectual authors of the violence to account.
And I said much of the same thing two years ago on the twentieth anniversary of the Jesuit murders.