The former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano was sentenced in Spain last Friday 11 September to 133 years in prison for the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, Julian Elba Ramos, and her daughter Celina. The massacre took place on 16 November 1989.
Five of the Jesuits were Spanish – Fathers Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes Mozo, Armando López Quintana and Juan Ramón Moreno Pardo. Fr Joaquín López y López, was Salvadoran.
Michael O’Sullivan is an Irish Jesuit who worked under death treat Pinochet’s Chile. He knew some of the Jesuits who died both from his time in Latin America and from when they studied in Ireland. He was also in El Salvador and visited the university where they were shot in the head after being forced to lie down in the garden outside their house. And he stood in the blood-stained room where Celina and her mother were assassinated.
In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications Michael gives his reaction to the conviction of Montano over 30 years after the fateful killings. He says it will go some way toward healing the dreadful pain inflicted on the families and friends of the victims and the people of El Salvador. But he is clear also that they were all cut off in their prime and the gift they would have been to their country will never be realised or replicated.
Michael also talks about the role the US played in El Salvador’s war, the funding of the Salvadorean military to the tune of 4 billion dollars, and on the other side the work of congressmen like Joe Moakley in highlighting the military atrocities in the country and brokering peace.
He outlines the long course toward the conviction of Montano and explains the role of other military officers in the killings, most of whom came from the ‘class of ’66’, and who were also implicated in the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down whilst saying Mass in San Salvador in 1980.