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November 1989 Remembered: Jesuit Murders

The Oct/Nov issue of the Catholic Worker carried an article called “November 1989 Remembered” by Dean Brackley, SJ that commemorates the 20th anniversary of the massacre at the Jesuit University in El Salvador on November 16, 1989. It documents the event and the search for justice that followed.

The victims were:

  • Slain priest Ignacio Ellacuria, 59, was rector of the Central American University and a widely respected leftist intellectual who was frequently denounced by the far right who claimed he was a spokesman for the Marxist-led Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
  • The university’s vice rector, Ignacio Martin-Baro, 50, also a Spanish-born Salvadoran citizen, was best known as an analyst of national and regional affairs and as the founder and director of the Public Opinion Institute, a highly respected polling organization.
  • Segundo Montes, 56, a Spanish-born sociology professor and Jesuit priest who did extensive work on Salvadoran refugees in the United States.
  • Arnando Lopez, 53, a Spanish-born philosophy professor and Jesuit priest.
  • Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, 71, a Salvadoran-born Jesuit priest who was director of a center for humanitarian assistance affiliated with the university.
  • Juan Ramon Moreno, 56, a Spanish-born Jesuit priest who was director of two university-related programs.
    Julia Elba Ramos, 42, a cook, and Cecilia Ramos, her daughter, 15.

At the time of the murders, the Reagan Administration considered the right-wing government of El Salvador an important ally in the war against Communism despite its extremely poor human rights record. If you’re interested in primary sources on our relationship with El Salvador during the 1980s, check out:

El Salvador: War, Peace, and Human Rights, 1980-1994

According to the National Security Archive website, “Among the unique materials included in the set are National Security Council memoranda outlining the Carter administration’s decision to resume military aid to El Salvador in 1981; field reports from the CIA station in San Salvador on human rights, death squad activities, and the extreme right wing; defense intelligence analyses tracking regional arms flows, training, and financing provided to the Salvadoran guerrillas; U.S. embassy and State Department cable traffic on dozens of critical human rights cases, including the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the El Mozote massacre, the killings of U.S. marines in San Salvador’s “Zona Rosa,” and the murder of the Jesuit priests in 1989; and United Nations documents on the peace process, including the full text of the Chapultepec peace accords and the U.N. Truth Commission report.”

History is supposed to teach. If it does, we need to stop coddling “allies” who murder their own people over differences in politics or religion.


By Lee Hockstader and Douglas Farah Washington Post Foreign Service Friday, November 17, 1989 ; Page A01

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