The story on the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador was old news. It was old on several counts. Human rights organizations have known about it since early May. It is old also from the perspective that the government and military of El Salvador are guilty of gross violations of human rights and international law on a consistent basis. The persecution of the Human Rights Commission and the Mothers of the Disappeared, labor unions and any other groups that provide a window on the situation inside of El Salvador to the world community is old news.
Despite disclaimers by the military that these people were not arrested for their human rights work, but for their alleged "membership in subversive organizations," the content of Luz Alfaro's "confession" is an attempt to discredit the veracity of the commission's findings and the humanitarian work of the Catholic, Lutheran, and Baptist churches.
This kind of action demonstrates panic on the part of the U.S. Embassy, the military, and the Duarte government. The U.S. Embassy, which calls the tune, cannot expect that the entire world can believe that the collective intelligence of so many competent people and agencies who have interacted with the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador for the past several years are all wrong.
El Salvador has the worst human rights record in the world, documented by countless human rights organizations. People who work in the human rights field in that country certainly see enough to make them unsympathetic to the government or the military. The simplistic notion that because you oppose the views of those in power makes you a subversive is the type of oppressive thinking that necessitates a human rights commission in the first place.
Luz Alfaro is a victim. She could have been tortured. Modern torture techniques often do not show. Or she could have been planted with the agenda to build some identity within the organization, which could provide her with the credibility to say whatever her "employers" wanted her to say when the "charade" was completed.
Charging the archbishop and Rev. Octavio Cruz with subversive activity is the best evidence that the whole "confession" is not only questionable, but also a politically motivated attempt to discredit the facilitators of dialogue and a negotiated settlement.
Students of strategy will see the "fine hand of deceit" and violations of due process all over this story. The Duarte government cannot afford too many such fiascoes. It's no wonder that the U.S. Embassy has begun to back away from the situation, according to Miller. It ends up being an argument resolved by the most credible voice, and on that basis, the archbishop has had the last word.
PATRICIA KROMMER CSJ
Sister Patricia is coordinator of the Humanitarian Law Project of the Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero Relief Fund.