Alleged Conspirator in 1989 Salvadorean Jesuit Priest Massacre, May Live in Bay Area

Categories: Crime
Ignacio Ellacuria, one of the priests murdered in 1989.
Last week, a Spanish judge indicted and issued arrest warrants for 20 Salvadorean ex-military officials in the high-profile 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests during that country's Civil War. The case has significant San Francisco connections: Attorneys from the San Francisco-based nonprofit Center for Justice & Accountability filed the case before the Spanish judge. Also, the indictment alleges that one of the ex-military officers charged with terrorist acts and crimes against humanity lives in San Francisco. 

According to the indictment, Hector Ulises Cuenca Ocampo was a military lieutenant who headed the Salvadorean intelligence agency at the time of the massacre, but now lives in San Francisco. Lead attorney Almudena Bernabeu of the Center for Justice and Accountability says Ocampo had an address in Redwood City, yet believes he moved after they started the investigation.

"We know he's in the Bay Area," Bernabeu told SF Weekly. "I know he knows about the case. He has a higher risk of fleeing and hopefully we can get a hold of him." 

According to the indictment, Ocampo had allegedly done reconnaissance of the priests' residence at the University of Central America in San Salvador before the murders on the campus. The priests -- five of whom were Spanish, one Salvadorean -- were critics of the country's military dictatorship, and had urged peace negotiations between the hard-right government and leftist rebels.

Military officials implicated in the murders were acquitted in a "sham trial" in the early 90's in El Salvador, stated the Spanish judge, and had been living free under an amnesty law ever since -- many in El Salvador, and two in the United States.  

The defendants have 10 days as of last Monday, May 30, to surrender, after which point INTERPOL will be charged with arresting them, Bernabeu says. Another defendant, Inocente Orlando Montano, has already been arrested elsewhere in the United States and is in custody, she says.

"That's an indication of an important level of cooperation," she says. "I have no reason to think [the United States] won't do it." 

Robert Umanzor is the head of the Bay Area-based Octavo Sector, an association of El Salvador's conservative ARENA party to which military was allied at the time of the massacre, according to the indictment. Umanzor says he knows nothing of Ocampo's wherabouts. "I knew about him at the time, but now that so many years have passed, many of these men have gone to other countries," he told SF Weekly.

Still, Bernabeu say Salvadoreans know Ocampo is here. "People in the community do know his name. They do know he's in their community. I wouldn't be surprised if I get a phone call saying he's here."

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