Documents show CIA had prior knowledge of 1989 Salvador murders

The 1989 José Simeón Cañas Central American University massacre

UCA massacre

The CIA and the US State Department had advance knowledge of the 1989 murders of six Jesuit clerics and two women by troops of the US-supported Salvadoran regime of Alfredo Cristiani, according to declassified internal US government documents submitted at a Spanish court. On November 16, 1989, a group of soldiers from the Atlacatl Battalion, a counter-insurgency squad created and trained at the US Army’s School of the Americas, entered the campus of José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) in El Salvador and summarily executed six Jesuit clerics. They also shot dead two UCA staff members, a woman and her 16-year-old daughter. In the months that followed, pressure from several countries, including the US, forced the Cristiani government to try the Atlacatl Battalion leaders. But the Salvadoran court sentenced only two individuals, both of whom were released in a 1993 Presidential amnesty. Now the declassification of thousands of US government documents sheds further light on the UCA campus massacre and allegedly shows that US authorities in Washington and El Salvador had prior knowledge of the murders. The documents were declassified with the assistance of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, to assist the case of families and friends of the murdered, who are seeking justice in Spain’s National Court. The lawsuit, which was filed in November last year, seeks to bring to justice over a dozen members of the Atlacatl Battalion and even implicates El Salvador’s former President Alfredo Cristiani in a conspiracy to cover up the ensuing investigation into the murders. Summaries of the documents were published last week in Spanish daily El Mundo, which stated that not only the US State Department and the CIA, but also CESID, Spain’s intelligence service at that time, were aware that the UCA priests were in danger by the Salvadoran military’s death squads.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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