Tracking the Collusion of Guatemalan and Salvadoran Death Squads

HECTOR OQUELI COLINDRES was heading back to the airport after a brief overnight visit with friends here when it happened. When the left-wing Salvadoran politician and a Guatemalan colleague slowed down at an intersection directly in front of a military base, they were abducted by gunmen. Their bullet-ridden corpses were found the next day near the Salvadoran border.

But unlike tens of thousands of other political killings that have scarred Guatemala's recent history, Mr. Oqueli's murder represented the eery collusion of Guatemalan and Salvadoran death squads.

Since Oqueli had been in Guatemala for only 12 hours, foreign diplomats here say, the murder was carried out either by Salvadoran rightists who had received information from Guatemalan intelligence about Oqueli's whereabouts, or by Guatemalan rightists, with the protection or active collaboration of the Army. The close relationship between Salvadoran and Guatemalan rightists is nothing new. They've long shared business, social, and political interests as well as a common foe: leftist guerrilla movements.

In the late 1970s, in fact, Mario Sandoval Alarc'on and his ultra-conservative Guatemalan National Liberation Movement (MLN) - which he once called the ``party of organized violence'' - helped give birth to El Salvador's Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). Major Roberto D'Aubuisson and other founding members of ARENA launched their party after a series of meetings with the MLN, taking the same structure and radical right-wing goals.

In September 1989, after a spate of violence linked partially to Salvadoran groups, President Vinicio Cerezo pleaded with Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani to control the extreme rightists in his party, says a congressmen here.

But two months later, when the ARENA government faced a fierce guerrilla offensive, the Guatemalan Army sent troops to the border to help out.

With the insurgencies gaining strength in both countries, right-wing colleagues are finding more reasons to regionalize the conflict.

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