General Rafael Bustillo is Summoned to Court for Massacre of Mozote

Former general Juan Rafael Bustillo, accused of being one of the intellectual authors of the El Mozote massacre, faces justice in the subpoena hearing. The hearing takes place in the First Court of Second Instance of San Francisco Gotera, Morazán. Photo Journal Co Latino / David Martínez.

Former general Juan Rafael Bustillo, accused of being one of the intellectual authors of the El Mozote massacre, faces justice in the subpoena hearing. The hearing takes place in the First Court of Second Instance of San Francisco Gotera, Morazán. Photo Journal Co Latino / David Martínez.

The retired military officer arrives in a sea of photojournalists. The silence of the San Francisco Gotera courtroom is flooded for ten minutes with the sound of camera shutters. Stoically, Rafael Bustillo, former Air Force general, occupies the "bench of the accused." He and 17 other retired military personnel are accused of one of the most emblematic events in the history of the Salvadoran armed conflict, the massacre at El Mozote and surrounding sites.

During the summons hearing, Bustillo tried to make a statement before the Second Court of First Instance; however, his defense lawyer did not allow it, so the Judge will give the opportunity to have another special hearing. "I will not make a statement until I talk with my lawyer; later, I will tell the national and international press everything I know," said former Commander Bustillo. General Bustillo is accused of more than nine crimes for his participation in the intellectual authorship and leadership of the “scorched earth” operation, which claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians. David Morales, a lawyer for the case, said it was important for the General to appear because he was willing to make a statement; Morales regrets how the defense tried to block the investigation’s progress.

"These are very serious crimes, it’s the murder of hundreds of civilians, for which the high military command of that time, including General Bustillo, is accused. It is not possible to coordinate the participation of helicopters and the transportation of troops without the General’s knowledge," he explained.

It is a special day for the victims and civil society organizations fighting for justice against the military personnel connected with the massacre at El Mozote and surrounding sites. Thirty-six years have passed since the massacre at El Mozote and surrounding areas, which include the towns La Joya and Cerro Pando, as well as villages Ranchería, Los Toriles, Jocote Amarillo, and Cerro Ortíz. Victims and survivors are hoping that they will finally find civil justice and moral reparation for themselves and their families.

Juan Rafael Bustillo, Air Force Commander during the armed conflict, was summoned to hear the list of crimes for which he will be prosecuted from the Second Instance judge, including murder, aggravated rape, deprivation of liberty, abuse of authority, and breaking and entering.

Bustillo has said he suffers from deafness, but he heard the judge announce the criminal proceedings for the murder of more than a thousand people in El Mozote and surrounding areas, which happened while Bustillo was General Commander of the Air Force of El Salvador.

The former military man was born on January 31, 1935, and entered the Military School in February 1954, where he was promoted in the military hierarchy. By 1972, in the context of the first political and ideological confrontations between civilian groups and military authorities, he held the rank of Major.

By December 31, 1980, a year before the massacre at El Mozote and surrounding sites, he had assumed the rank of Colonel, and by December 1984, he had crowned his military career with the rank of General and the position of Commander of the Air Force of El Salvador.

 

Wilfredo Medrano, from Tutela Legal "María Julia Hernández", said that the July 16, 2016, repeal of the Amnesty Law by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court has given encouragement and hope to the victims of the massacre at El Mozote and surrounding sites.

The presence of General Rafael Bustillo in the Court of San Francisco Gotera, Morazán was also encouraging, after his flight from the "Red Diffusion" issued by the National Court of Spain following accusations implicating Bustillo in the November 1989 murder of Jesuit priests. The Supreme Court of Justice settled this matter by establishing that extradition of the military was not allowed.

With these hearings, the facts are being proven. Almost all the witnesses come from the various villages that were affected by the El Mozote massacre, such as La Joya, Toriles, Cerro Pando, and El Mozote. Among the witnesses who have testified are women who have shared many details which affirm sexual violation by the military, a fact that is already known by the judge.

 

Translated from Orellana, S. (October 19, 2017). General Rafael Bustillo es intimado por masacre del Mozote. Diario Co Latino. Retrieved from http://www.diariocolatino.com/general-rafael-bustillo-intimado-masacre-del-mozote/

Hannah Rose Nelson