Once again a US court room is the scene of testimony about human rights abuses during El Salvador's civil war. This time the setting is a deportation proceeding as the US seeks to deport former Salvadoran defense minister General Jose Guillermo García.
General Jose Guillermo García (b. 1933) graduated in 1962 from The School of the Americas. He later became the Minister of Defense in El Salvador from 1979 to 1983. García was in charge of the military forces responsible for the infamous El Mozote and Sumpul River massacres where over 1367 civilians were killed. He was also the Minister of Defense when the revered Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated and blocked any attempts at an investigation. In 1989, he retired to Florida after receiving political asylum in the United States.
Karl said it has been well documented that the Salvadoran armed forces were responsible for the majority of the deaths. She said soldiers during that time were disciplined for drinking but not for human rights abuses.
"And the number that were disciplined I can count on one hand, and they happened after General Garcia's tenure," Karl said.
Dressed in a dark suit, gray shirt and black and gold tie and with his hands crossed, Garcia described how he at first rejected the defense minister appointment, wanting to retire and manage a radio station instead. But one of the top colonels running the revolutionary government continued to insist. After consulting with his family, he decided to accept.
Garcia said human rights abuses were occurring before his tenure, and that he did take certain steps to stop them. He invited the Red Cross to have a presence at military quarters, unannounced, and made public statements reminding soldiers of their obligations to the civilian population.
Asked by the judge whether there were any investigations into reports of massacres, Garcia replied there had been.
"Investigations were done," he said. "But with a certain degree of limitation due to the fact an investigation is done based on the information that was available."
Questioned by his attorney on whether he ever committed, ordered, incited or participated in an act of torture or extrajudicial killing, Garcia replied in a confident voice, "No."