PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - July 23 - A Florida federal jury today awarded $54.6 million
to three Salvadorans who proved they were tortured by Salvadoran security forces.
Juan Romagoza, Neriz Gonzalez and Carlos Mauricio sued two Salvadoran generals
who retired to Florida in 1989. The suit is based on two federal laws that allow
torture victims to seek redress in U.S. courts, even if the offenses occurred
The two retired generals are José Guillermo Garcia, Salvadoran Minister
of Defense and Public Security from 1979-1983, and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova,
the Director-General of the Salvadoran National Guard from 1979-1983, and subsequently
Minister of Defense and Public Security. Both men are connected to the School
of the Americas (SOA).
General José Guillermo García received counterinsurgency training
at the SOA in 1962. As defense minister García refused to investigate reports
that approximately 900 hundred unarmed civilians were brutally murdered by the
U.S.-trained Atlacatl battalion in 1981. A 1993 UN Truth Commission on El Salvador
verified the reports. García also failed to launch a serious investigation
of the murder of four U.S. church women by members of the Salvadoran National
Guard in December 1980. García was granted residency in the U.S. in 1989.
General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova was a Guest Speaker at the SOA in 1985.
A UN Truth Commission Report cited him for ordering the assassination of four
U.S. church women in 1980. Vides Casanova was granted residency in the U.S. in
During a four-week trial that began on June 24 the plaintiffs told of being
detained and brutally tortured by Salvadoran national guardsmen and police under
the command of the two generals. The jury began deliberations on Thursday afternoon,
and deliberated for 20 hours.
The SOA (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) is
a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently
involved in human rights atrocities. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release
training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion
and execution. In December 2000 Congress authorized the WHISC to replace the SOA.
The renaming of the school was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse public criticism
and to disassociate the school from its reputation. SOA Watch maintains that the
underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems
of Latin America by aiding and influencing Latin American militaries, remains
Information was provided by the Center for Justice and Accountability. For
more info about the case, including trial testimony and info about the plaintiffs,
please see the Center's website: http://www.cja.org