Santa Marta Demands an End to Impunity and Justice for Perpetrator of Massacres
A war criminal running for political office has caused uproar among the members of the organized community of Santa Marta, in Cabañas. “People have no choice but to express their outrage when people like this, involved in crimes against humanity, get involved in public life and run for public office, places of decision-making,” declared Leonel Rivas, Santa Marta resident and a family member of victims of the massacres carried out by former General Ochoa Perez.
On February 2, 2012 around 30 members of the community Santa Marta, department of Cabañas, demanded that the Attorney General of the Republic begin a judicial process against Ochoa Perez. “We fully believe in President Funes when he said ‘no people will be free, no people will be happy, no people will achieve peace until the profound pain in their hearts caused by the negation of memory, truth and justice is removed.’ And for that to be possible, for the victims to know the truth, these crimes must be investigated, and those responsible brought to justice,” read the press release given by Santa Marta and ADES.
From 1978 to 1982, when Colonel Ochoa Perez was in command of the Second Military Outpost in Sensuntepeque, at least seven massacres were perpetrated against the civilian population of Santa Marta, causing over 900 deaths.
Santa Marta residents and victims of the horrendous oppression and violence carried out in the region shared their testimonies: a massacre of six women who were making the day’s tortillas for their farmer husbands; young, pregnant women killed and their unborn children ripped from their wombs; the massacre at the Lempa River, as the civilian population fled their homes and left everything behind in Santa Marta to save their lives.
Now, Ochoa Perez is running for the Legislative Assembly with the ARENA Party.
Santa Marta and the organizations that support justice and human rights made the following demands: “For these abhorrent acts against the population and with the “conviction,” as President Funes said, “that real democracy should be founded in truth and justice”:
- We ask that Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez be investigated and brought before justice for crimes against humanity and the repugnant violations of human rights against the civilian population of Santa Marta in 1981.
- We condemn ARENA’s decision to present Col Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez, implied in acts of genocide against our people, as a Legislative Assembly member candidate.
- We ask the Attorney General of the Republic to create an Ad Hoc commission, made up of people with experience in human rights and of publicly recognized moral and ethics.
Leonel ended the press conference expressing concern over the recent naming of a military officer as Director of the National Civilian Police. The history of Santa Marta and tens of thousands of Salvadorans that lived and suffered the war, ongoing impunity for those responsible for crimes against humanity, and continuing death threats and violence against anti-mining activists and journalists in Cabañas are inextricably linked to further militarization of national security forces. Further militarization of Salvadoran society will not lead to greater truth, peace or justice, but it may lead to a repetition of El Salvador’s violent, bloody past.