I. Former President Alfredo Cristiani Burkard
At the time of the Jesuits Massacre, Alfredo Cristiani Burkard was the President of El Salvador and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. According to the complaint, he played an active role covering up the crime and obstructing the subsequent investigation. At the time of the Jesuits Massacre, Cristiani had been President of El Salvador and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces for approximately 16 months. According to the UN Truth Commission report and the complaint, a few days prior to the massacre Cristiani called Father Ellacuria in Spain and asked him to return to El Salvador. In addition, Cristiani was in almost daily contact with the architects of the scheme to murder Ellacuria and his fellow priests. His office was immediately adjacent to that of General Emilio Ponce.
Cristiani is a member of the ARENA and a successful businessman who married into one of El Salvador’s leading oligarch families, known as the “Fourteen Families.” He was educated at the Escuela Americana (American School) in San Salvador and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
II. General Rafael Humberto Larios
Rafael Humberto Larios held the rank of General and was the Minister of Defense at the time of the massacre. According to the Truth Commission report, Larios was present at the meeting on November 15, 1989, where Colonel Emilio Ponce ordered Colonel Benavides to kill Father Ellacuria. Larios also told the Truth Commission that President Alfredo Cristiani met with Colonel Emilio Rene Ponce and Larios for a few hours immediately prior to the massacre at the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Humberto Larios resides in El Salvador.
III. General René Emilio Ponce
René Emilio Ponce was born in El Salvador. He graduated first in his class at the Gerardo Barrios Military School in 1966. His class was known as “La Tandona” because its members later became so dominant in the military. The members of La Tandona were in command of the Salvadoran Armed Forces in 1989. At the time of the Jesuits Massacre, Ponce held the rank of colonel and was the Head of the Salvadoran Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ponce was later promoted to General and held the post of Defense Minister of El Salvador. Eventually he was forced to retire due to the imminent release of the report of the U.N. Truth Commission exposing his part in ordering the Jesuits Massacre.
According to the Truth Commission report, on the night of November 15, 1989, Ponce, in the presence of General Bustillo, Colonel Zepeda, Colonel Montano and Colonel Fuentes, ordered Colonel Benavides to kill Father Ellacuría and leave no witnesses. Two days earlier, Ponce had transferred the unit to the command of Colonel Benavides, and its soldiers had performed a search of the Jesuits’ residence at the UCA. General Ponce resided in El Salvador and was the president of the Asociación de Veteranos Militares de El Salvador “General Manuel José Arce” (ASVEM), an association of military veterans until his death in early 2011. ASVEM’s main mission is to lobby the Salvadoran government to oppose any efforts to lift the Amnesty Law that currently protects its most influential members.
IV. General Juan Rafael Bustillo
Juan Rafael Bustillo held the rank of general and was the commander of the Salvadoran Air Force at the time of the massacre. During the FMLN offensive, Bustillo participated in a number of meetings of the Salvadoran High Command. It was after one of those meetings, on the night of November 15, 1989, that Ponce gave the order to Benavides to kill Ellacuría, in Bustillo’s presence. Bustillo resides in El Salvador.
V. General Juan Orlando Zepeda
Juan Orlando Zepeda is another member of “La Tandona,” held the rank of colonel and served as the Vice Minister of Defense at the time of the massacre. Zepeda was later promoted to the rank of general. He was present the night of November 15, 1989, when Ponce gave the order to Benavides to kill Ellacuría. Prior to the massacre, Zepeda had publicly accused the UCA of being the center of operations for the FMLN. Zepeda resides in El Salvador and is the current president of Manejo Integral de Desechos Sólidos, the largest residential and commercial trash service provider in El Salvador.
VI. Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano
Inocente Orlando Montano is a former military officer from El Salvador who served as a commander and then as Vice Minister of Public Safety during the country’s civil war in the 1980’s and during the time of the massacre. He was present the night of November 15, 1989, when Ponce gave the order to Benavides to kill Ellacuría. Prior to the massacre, Montano stated publicly that the Jesuits were aligned with subversive movements. Montano resides in Everett, Massachusetts.
To read about the ongoing U.S. prosecution of Colonel Montano for immigration fraud and perjury, click here.
VII. Colonel Francisco Elena Fuentes
Francisco Elena Fuentes held the rank of colonel and was the commander of the First Infantry Brigade in San Salvador at the time of the massacre. He was present the night of November 15, 1989, when Ponce gave the order to Benavides to kill Ellacuría. One day after the killings, troops from Elena Fuentes’ First Infantry Brigade attempted to intimidate members of San Salvador’s Archdiocese by transmitting messages over loudspeakers saying, “We are still killing communists, Ellacuría and Martín-Baró have fallen, surrender, this is the First Brigade.” Fuentes resides in El Salvador.
VIII. Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Camilo Hernández Barahona
Carlos Camilo Hernández Barahona held the rank of major and was the interim Assistant Dean at the Military College in El Salvador at the time of the massacre. He was later promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. On the night of November 15, 1989, he was present when Benavides informed the officers at the Military College of the order he had been given to murder Ellacuría and remained silent when asked by Benavides if anyone objected to the order. Later, Benavides ordered Hernández Barahona to organize and plan the operation.
Hernández Barahona organized and attended the meeting held on November 15, 1989 where Benavides ordered Espinoza Guerra to command the mission to kill Ellacuría. After this meeting, Hernández Barahona met with Espinoza Guerra and Second Lieutenant Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos of the Atlacatl Battalion. Hernández Barahona gave them an AK-47 rifle that had been captured from the FMLN and told them to use it to kill Ellacuría. The use of the FMLN AK-47 would serve to point blame away from the Armed Forces and toward the FMLN. Additionally, Hernández Barahona ordered them to leave behind at the murder site propaganda mentioning the FMLN.
Hernández Barahona was also involved in the cover up, by taking part in the burning of a small suitcase containing photographs, documents and money which the soldiers had stolen from the Jesuits. In conjunction with Benavides he ordered that all Military College arrival and departure logs for that year and the previous year be burned. This was done to prevent investigators from learning who had attended the meetings held at the Military College at the time the murders of the Jesuits were being planned and ordered.
In 1992, Hernández Barahona was found guilty by the Fourth Criminal Court of El Salvador of being an accessory to the killings. The judge sentenced him to three years in prison; he remained free on bail while the appeal process dragged on and did not serve a day in prison as a result of the Amnesty Law. He resides in El Salvador.
IX. Lieutenant José Ricardo Espinoza Guerra
José Ricardo Espinoza Guerra held the rank of lieutenant and was a member of the Atlacatl Battalion at the time of the massacre. Espinoza Guerra and the platoon under his command were assigned to Benavides at the Military College on November 13, 1989 by a direct order from Ponce. On the evening of November 13, 1989, Benavides ordered Espinoza Guerra to search the Jesuits’ sleeping quarters as part of a recognizance mission prior to the killings. Espinoza Guerra informed Benavides of the presence of Ellacuría at the UCA.
On the evening of November 15, 1989, Benavides ordered Espinoza Guerra to carry out the mission to kill Ellacuría and not to leave any witnesses behind. Espinoza Guerra and his platoon arrived at the UCA in the early hours of November 16, 1989 and made their way to the Pastoral Center. When the priests came out to see what the commotion was about, they were ordered to go out into the garden and lay face down on the ground, while the soldiers searched the building. At this point, Lieutenant Espinoza Guerra gave the order to kill the priests. In January 1990, Lieutenant Espinoza Guerra confessed his participation in the crime to the CIHD. Espinoza Guerra resides in El Salvador.
X. Second Lieutenant Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos
Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos held the rank of Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to the Atlacatl Battalion at the time of the massacre. Although Espinoza Guerra commanded the unit, Guevara Cerritos was also an officer with command authority over the troops that carried out the massacre.
In January 1992, Guevara Cerritos was sentenced to three years for instigation and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism for his role in the Jesuits massacre. He was later released as a result of the Amnesty Law and continued in active service in the armed forces.
Guevara Cerritos came to the U.S. in 2005 and worked as a janitor in a motel in Los Angeles. He was deported back to El Salvador in April 2007 because of his role in the Jesuits massacre. Guevara Cerritos resides in El Salvador.
XI. Private Oscar Mariano Amaya Grimaldi
Oscar Mariano Amaya Grimaldi was a private in the Salvadoran Army and was assigned to the Atlacatl Battalion at the time of the massacre. In 1992, during the criminal trial conducted in El Salvador, Amaya admitted to receiving an AK-47 from defendant Hernandez Barahona and to killing Fathers Ellacuría, Martín-Baró and Montes. He was not convicted. Amaya’s whereabouts are unknown.
XII. Sergeant Antonio Ramiro Avalos Vargas
Antonio Ramiro Avalos Vargas was a sergeant in the Salvadoran Army and was assigned to the Atlacatl Battalion at the time of the massacre. In the 1991-92 trial, he admitted to killing Fathers López and Moreno. He was not convicted. He resides in El Salvador.
XIII. Corporal Angel Pérez Vásquez
Angel Pérez Vásquez was a corporal in the Salvadoran Army and was assigned to the Atlacatl Battalion at the time of the massacre. In the 1991-1992 trial, he admitted to shooting and killing Father López y López. He was not convicted. Pérez Vásquez resides in El Salvador.
XIV. Deputy Sergeant Tomás Zárpate Castillo
Tomás Zárpate Castillo was a deputy sergeant in the Salvadoran Army and was assigned to the Atlacatl Battalion at the time of the massacre. He later admitted that he shot Julia Elba Ramos and her daughter Celina. He was not convicted and resides in El Salvador.
XV. Private José Alberto Sierra Ascencio
José Alberto Sierra Ascencio was a private in the Salvadoran Army and was assigned to the Atlacatl Battalion at the time of the massacre. Sierra Ascencio admitted to shooting Julia Elba Ramos and her daughter, Celina, to the CIHD but was later tried in absentia and acquitted of the crime.
XVI. Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides
At the time of the Jesuits Massacre, Guillermo Alfredo Benavides held the rank of Colonel in the Salvadoran Army and was the director of the military school, “Capitan General Gerardo Barrios.” Benavides was also a member of “La Tandana.”
According to expert witness Terry Karl, on November 13, 1989, Benavides ordered the Atlacatl Battalion to inspect the private residences of the Jesuits at the UCA. He also informed his superior Rene Emilio Ponce, head of the Salvadoran Armed Forces, that Father Ignacio Ellacuria had arrived in El Salvador from Spain.
From Ponce, Benavides received the order to murder Ellacuria and the five other Jesuit priests and, in turn, Benavides ordered Espinoza Guerra to command the mission.
XVII. Colonel Joaquin Arnoldo Cerna Florez
Joaquin Arnoldo Cerna Flores was a colonel of the Salvadoran Armed Forces at the time of the Jesuits Massacre. He directed the inspection of the UCA on November 13, 1989, and he had knowledge of the plan to murder the Jesuits at the UCA.
XVIII. Colonel Carlos Mauricio Guzman Aguilar
At the time of the massacre, Guzman Aguilar was colonel of the Salvadoran Armed Forces and the director of the Salvadoran Intelligence Service. He was also a member of “La Tandana” and present during the mission’s planning meetings.
XIX. Lieutenant Hector Ulysses Cuenta Ocampo
Cuenta Ocampo is currently a resident of San Francisco, California. During the Massacre, he was a lieutenant in the Salvadoran Armed Forces and he occupied a prominent position in the National Intelligence Service of El Salvador.
According to the Salvadoran Truth Commission Report, Cuenta Ocampo inspected the priests’ private residences and participated in the disclosure of that information.
XX. Colonel Oscar Alberto Linares
Alberto Linares was colonel of the Salvadoran Armed Forces and commander of the Atlacatl Battalion. He participated in the inspection of the UCA on November 13, 1989. As Commander of the Atlacatl Battalion, he also participated in the planning meeting at the military school where the orders to execute the priests were given. He also participated in the actual murders.