Bustillo, The Salvadoran General Who Has No One To Believe Him

This is the story of a general whose name, Juan Rafael Bustillo, resonates with the worst atrocities of the Salvadoran civil war (1980-1992). It is the story of a general who recognized the authorship of the Army in the massacre of 1,000 peasants in the town of El Mozote (1981), but to whom no one, at least not the survivors, believes his exculpatory narrative. Bustillo, once commander of the Air Force of El Salvador, arrived before the Court of Instruction of San Francisco Gotera (northeast), which prosecutes him along with 15 military personnel retired for war crimes, to give his “investigative declaration” on the said killing . This session of the court, which opened the process in 2017 after the annulment of a general amnesty of 1993, was a day of several first times. THE OXYMOR OF THE GENERAL “I want you to know that I have not come to say that I am innocent, but I want to tell you, with all property, that I am not guilty of any fact that occurred at that time in El Mozote.” This is how Bustillo began his story, protected by the law that allowed him to say and silence what he wanted. The judge, Jorge Guzmán, previously reminded him of the charges that are tried in the process: murder, rape, deprivation of liberty, violation of residence, robbery, damage, havoc, preparatory acts of terrorism, terrorism, disappearance, torture and forced displacement. Bustillo, who rose to general three years after the massacre, said he was “healthy”, without any mental illness and with an “excellent memory.” His initial statement marked the interrogation, which focused on detaching himself from the operation, the decisions of the military leadership and the conduct of the soldiers. “It is the General Staff that ordered the units what had to be done,” said the 88-year-old retired military officer, who said he was never part of this group. The ex-reported story also showed that these military leaders acted on their own, although at that time the country was ruled by a military and civilian board. Among the members of this high command that led the war are former Minister of Defense José Guillermo García and General Rafael Flores Lima, both prosecuted. “I had no knowledge and I think, I think and I am sure that no other unit had knowledge” of the operation that resulted in the massacre. Before these statements, the frown of the survivors who witnessed the interrogation frowned, the audience room was filled with murmurs of disbelief. “I regret the lords who are here who lost their relatives, I regret it because wars are of no use: damn war!” He said and recalled that his son was murdered by police officers of a militarized body. Bustillo gave in to tears. The faces still gave no credit. HISTORICAL RECOGNITION This line of the history of Bustillo, which is also part of Salvadoran history, was written in a small room full of journalists, lawyers, activists and survivors of one of the worst massacres recorded in Latin America. There, Bustillo became the first high-ranking military officer prosecuted for crimes against humanity that recognized that the Army massacred in El Mozote. He said about 1,200 soldiers were transferred in December 1981, mainly in trucks. “I did not give him any support” and “I had absolutely no knowledge of what the Atlacatl battalion did. I learned three, four days (later), when the massacre of all media outlets came out The Mozote, “he said. However, the first news about the event was released for several weeks after the killing. He also became the first defendant for this crime to give credit to the Report of the Truth Commission of 1993. THE ROTA Bustillo STRATEGY, who has shown himself away from his former weapons companions, broke the pact and strategy of silence and called the rest of the accused to defend themselves with their own words. “I don’t want to blame, I don’t want to defend anyone from high command because I don’t know what happened. They are here (in the process), those who participated in that operation, many of them are alive, then ask them,” said. MUD TO HERO The right in El Salvador has the late Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Monterrosa as a war hero, as the best strategist. The military, said to lead the Atlacatl battalion during the massacre of El Mozote and others, was killed by the guerrillas in 1984. Bustillo threw mud into the image of the “hero”, attributed a momentary madness to the fall of some of his men, placed in their hands the responsibility of the 1,000 bodies, most of them children, who were scattered in El Mozote. “I think it was on his initiative, that he gave the order to kill that population. I almost think it was a moment of madness from Colonel Monterrosa to have committed that rudeness,” he said. “I DON’T BELIEVE HIM” Dorila Márquez, survivor and leader of the victims of El Mozote, told reporters after finalizing Bustillo’s statement that he does not believe him, not at least the part in which he disclaims all responsibility. “With my own eyes, I saw when they were transporting the Army. Four, five helicopters passed together and carried soldiers,” he said and added that attributing responsibility to Monterrosa alone is a strategy of blaming the dead. Hugo Sanchez