The November 10, 2014, edition of the New York Times published a video and textual “RetroReport” by Clyde Haberman about the December 1980 rapes and murder in El Salvador of the four American Churchwomen: Maryknoll missionaries Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan. The article contains disturbing videos of the exhumation of their bodies that month from shallow graves near the airport in that country along with other contemporaneous videos of the churchwomen and U.S. officials and news reports about this horrible crime.
This “RetroReport” was presented as background for the article’s discussion of the pending U.S. legal proceedings to remove or deport two retired Salvadoran generals for having been responsible for those horrible crimes: “José Guillermo García, now 81, and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, 77, [who] have been living in Florida for a quarter-century. They were allowed to settle there during the presidency of George Bush, who, like his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, considered them allies and bulwarks against a Moscow-backed leftist insurgency.”
“But administrations change, and so do government attitudes. Over the past two and a half years, immigration judges in Florida have ruled that the generals bore responsibility for assassinations and massacres, and deserve now to be ‘removed’ — bureaucratese for deported. Both are appealing the decisions, so for now they are going nowhere. Given their ages, their cases may be, for all parties, a race against time.”
The Times pointed out that the proceedings against these two Salvadoran military officers rely on a 2004 U.S. federal statute “prohibiting human rights abusers from entering or living in this country and that [the U.S. government] has broadened its scope to include violators from all over. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, reported last December that over the previous decade, it had obtained deportation orders for more than 640 people.”
This blog has published the following seven posts about the American Churchwomen:
- The December 1980 Murders of the Four American Churchwomen in El Salvador (Dec. 14, 2011);
- Non-Judicial Investigations of the 1980 Murders of the Four Churchwomen in El Salvador (Dec. 16, 2011);
- Salvadoran Judicial Investigation and Criminal Prosecution for the 1980 Murders of the Four Churchwomen (Dec. 18, 2011);
- The Salvadoran Truth Investigation of the 1908 Murders of the Four Churchwomen (Dec. 19, 2011);
- TVPA Lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court over the 1908 Murders of the American Churchwomen (Dec. 20, 2011);
- Pilgrimage to American Churchwomen Sites in El Salvador (Dec. 21, 2011); and
- The Witness of a Lawyer for Salvadoran Soldier Accused of 1980 Murder of American Churchwomen (Aug. 15, 2013).
In addition, this blog has published the following four posts about the U.S. proceedings to remove or deport García and Vides Casanova:
- Former Salvadoran Military Officer Is Determined To Have Assisted in Torture and Murder [Casanova immigration] (Feb. 24, 2012);
- Enforcement of International Human Rights Norms with U.S. Immigration Laws [Casanova, Garcia and others] (April 14, 2013);
- U.S. Orders Deportation of Former Salvadoran General [Garcia] (April 26, 2014) and
- Developments in Use of U.S. Immigration Law To Enforce International Human Rights [Garcia, Casanova and others] (June 15, 2014).
Although Garcia and Casanova escaped civil liability for money damages over the murders of the churchwomen in U.S. federal court under the Torture Victims Protection Act, they were held liable for $54.6 million of money damages in another civil case in U.S. federal court involving other victims as discussed in a prior post.
Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan continue to inspire many by their living out Jesus’ Gospel of loving God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.
 The Times article states that this RetroReport is part of a documentary series that looks back at major stories that shaped the world using fresh interviews, analysis and compelling archival video footage. This nonprofit project, which was started with a grant from Christopher Buck, has a staff of 13 journalists and 10 contributors.
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