Justice more than 30 years later and after decades of sham trials in El Salvador without any punishment and with more effort to exonerate the Army and try to put the facts to rest than anything else. The National Court has been sentenced to 133 years and four months of prison to the former colonel and deputy minister of public security of the army of that Central American country Innocent Orlando Montano Morales for the murder of five Spanish JesuitsThe first of these was a series of meetings, among them the priest Ignacio Elllacuría, held on the night of November 15-16, 1989 at the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA).
According to the ruling known today, Montano, extradited by the United States and tried last June in Madrid, was the military command that, in the company of other comrades, ordered the killing of the religious when he understood that the Spanish effort to pacify the country and denounce the excesses of the opposing sides in that undeclared civil war – and particularly the outrages committed by the Army – would lead to the purging of the military leadership to which the now condemned man belonged.
In a judgment, the Second Section of the Criminal Chamber considers Montano author of five counts of murder of a terrorist nature (those of Jesuits Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín Baró, Segundo Montes Mozo, Armando López Quintana and Juan Ramón Moreno Pardo) for each of which he is sentenced to 26 years, 8 months and one day in prison.
The magistrates also consider Montano to be the author of the murders of another Salvadorian JesuitThe same is true for Joaquín López y López, the university cook, Julia Elba Ramos, and his 15-year-old daughter, Celina Mariceth Ramos, who were executed along with the religious, although he cannot be convicted of these acts since he was not extradited by the United States for these collateral crimes.
The motive for his murder
The resolution certifies that the motive for the murder of Ellacuria and her companions, as always suspected, was to silence her ‘annoying’ voice. The condemned man was a member of ‘La Tandona’, the great class of the Military Academy of Officers of the Salvadoran Army of 1966 to which the accused belonged and which intended to take power in the American country at the end of the eighties. Inocente Montano was a member of the “inner circle” of power of this group, called “los compadres”, and participated in the decisions with the others.
However, La Tandona had found a powerful enemy: Father Ellacuría. The Spaniard as rector of the Central American University was considered one of the most important political analysts in the country and insisted on the idea that he did not believe that a military victory was possible either for the armed forces or the FMLN. This participation in public life had created “powerful enemies” for him and, in fact, he explains the sentence, the Jesuits had been the target of death threats, searches and attacks at the UCA throughout the decade, which grew in intensity and number, up to 49 in 1989.
The sentence explains that one of the central elements of the negotiation and reconciliation that Ellacuría was promulgating was the purging of the Armed Forces, particularly of ‘La Tandona, already known for its excesses of all kinds.
In this way, it had been brewing between the members of the High Command, who belonged almost entirely to ‘La TandonaIn the same way, the consideration of Ignacio Ellacuría as an “enemy”, whose intermediation work meant a threat to his privileged position, “so they began to consider the convenience of ending” his life.
The sentence relates the meeting of officers, including the deputy minister of public security, Colonel Montano, in which it was ordered to kill Father Ellacuría and leave no witnesses, using a unit of the Alacatl battalion.
Simulation of a confrontation
After midnight on November 15-16, the soldiers gathered outside the Military School, where Colonel Rene Yusshy provided them with a Russian-made AK 47 rifle commonly used by the FMLN in order to shoot with it and pretend that the FMLN members were the perpetrators. He also ordered them to make it appear that a military confrontation had taken place once the priests were dead.
The officers approached the priests’ residence and when they left their residence, alerted by the noise, they ordered them to lie downAt that moment, the officer carrying the AK 47 began to shoot at the three men on the ground, Ellacuría, Baró and Montes. After that, according to the account of the sentence, the sub-sergeant and a corporal began to shoot and killed the other three priests.
At the same time, the sergeant who had been left guarding the university cook and her daughter fired numerous shots as they both held on. Then, when he discovered that they were still alive on the ground, hugging each other, he ordered another soldier to make sure they were dead, which he did by unloading his M-16 “until they were finished and practically split in half.
Immediately afterwards, another of the soldiers, following instructions from the lieutenant of the Military School, wrote on a wall: “The LWF executed the enemy spies. Victory or death, FMLN.”