The Common Good
January-February 2001

Jury: Generals "Not Guilty"

by Rose Marie Berger, Susannah Hunter | January-February 2001

The presidential elections weren't the only things casting a long shadow over the Sunshine State this fall. 

The presidential elections weren't the only things casting a long shadow over the Sunshine State this fall. Twenty years after the rape and murder of four U.S. churchwomen in El Salvador, the men who allegedly ordered the murders were tried and found not guilty in a Florida Federal District Court.

Former Salvadoran military leaders Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jose Guillermo García (who in the late '80s both packed up their khaki pants and retired to Florida), were serving as director of the National Guard and minister of defense, respectively, in 1980 when Sisters Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and lay missioner Jean Donovan were tortured and killed. Both men admitted to knowing about the slaughter of innocent civilians by their troops, but insisted that they had no control over the situation.

The verdict has not been easy for the families, who said they plan to ask for a retrial. "I don't have the privilege of giving up and rejecting my faith," Miriam Ford, Ita's niece, told The New York Times. "We have the same story as so many others who lost family members. We have the burden of paying taxes to a government, so we paid for the guns and the uniforms. I think it is only our faith that is going to get us through."

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