4 December 2007

Impunity for Salvadoran Killer

Decio Machado Flores

Sixteen years after the assassination of the Basque volunteer, Begoña García Arandigoien in El Salvador, the main person implicated in the crime visits the Spanish state with absolute impunity...

“It was 10 September, 1990, in the foothills of the Santa Ana volcano (in north-east El Salvador). Two days ago guerrillas had held meetings and acts of publicity in the territory and consequently a unit of the Popular Revolutionary Army (ERP) was still in the area,” said Domingo, using an alias of at that time by former guerrilla combatants of the ERP, one of the five groups that made up the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

“Early in the afternoon the guerrilla column in which Alba (the name by which Begoña was popularly known) was present was ambushed by the army; she was injured and captured by the soldiers. It was a hard blow because all who had the good fortune to know her, loved her a lot”. Two days later, the rebel radio station, Venceremos, announced: “Begoña García was savagely assassinated by the army in a field hospital in the department of Santa Ana, hours after her capture.”

Begoña was a young medic born in Navarra. She arrived in Nicaragua and just a year later went to El Salvador as a health worker for the FMLN guerrillas. The official version was that she died “in combat” as a result of a crossfire between the guerrillas and the army. After efforts by the Spanish embassy, her body was exhumed four days later and the autopsy at the Hospital of Navarra, where Begoña worked before leaving for Central America, did not leave room for doubt: the young woman had been assassinated with a shot with “the barrel touching the nape”.

Moreover, before that she suffered five other shots in different parts of the body and fractures in the femur and both arms. Everything indicates that before being shot point-blank, she had been tortured by the Salvadoran army.

The Truth Commission that was formed in 1998 to investigate the human rights violation and crimes against humanity that took place in the conflict that buffeted El Salvador between 1980 and 1991, studied the case of the young volunteer. According to the commission, Begoña García “was executed extra-judicially by the fourth company of the Second Infantry Brigade under the immediate command of Lieutenant Roberto Salvador Hernández and the higher command of Lieutenant-Colonel Jose Antonio Almendáriz Rivas”. The general amnesty of 1993, which were “pardoned” thousands of crimes against humanity in El Salvador, allowed Almendáriz to be exonerated for the crimes committed during the war.

Vicente Neto, communal leader and once a combatant of the Popular Liberation Front, another of the armed organisations which made up FMLN, said: “José Antonio Almendáriz Rivas is a Deputy of the National Conciliation Party and is currently placed to head the party’s list for the presidential elections that will take place in 2009. Moreover two years ago he publicly acknowledged his responsibility in Alba’s assassination, going on to say he committed the crime in a moment of hate”.

Almendáriz formed part of a delegation of Salvadoran Deputies which travelled to Spain in October to study the Spanish transition as a possible model applicable to El Salvador. Guillermo Garcia, the victim’s father, contacted the External Affairs Ministry with little luck with the demand that the Salvadoran Deputy be detained and stopped from leaving Spanish territory. Asked about the crime, Almendáriz limited himself to saying: “I asked pardon for it”.
Abridged. Published in the November 29, 2007 issue of DIAGONAL. Link: http://www.diagonalperiodico.net/article4919.html
Related article: El Salvador Turn Left Again

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