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Timeline 1989-2000
backU.S. Policy in El Salvador

Jesuit Priests
Father IgnacIo EllacurIa gives homily at Mass at the UCA chapel. EllacurIa, Father Armando Lopez (2nd from left) and Father IgnacIo MartIn Baro (3rd from left) were murdered in 1989.
  • In February, U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle visits El Salvador and warns against human rights violations.

  • Alfredo Cristiani is elected president of El Salvador.

  • In April, Attorney General Roberto Garcia Alvarado is assassinated. Salvadoran military officers claim the assassination was planned at the UCA.

  • In June, Minister of the Presidency Jose Antonio Rodriguez Porth is assassinated.

  • Throughout the fall, the Salvadoran government and the FMLN continue talks in Mexico and Costa Rica.

  • In October, Salvadoran Colonel Eduardo Casanova Vejar's daughter is assassinated.

  • In November, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson visits San Salvador and urges calm.

  • Salvadoran President Cristiani asks Father Ellacuria to join a committee investigating a National Trade Union Federation bombing that killed 10 and wounded 35.

  • In November, the FMLN launches a coordinated military offensive in El Salvador, attacking military centers in major cities. The Salvadoran army bombs residential neighborhoods believed to support the FMLN.

  • Nonessential U.S. personnel are shipped out of San Salvador.

  • On November 13, the Jesuit residence at the UCA is searched by the Atlactl battalion, an elite Salvadoran military unit.

  • On November 15 at a secret meeting, senior Salvadoran military officers give orders to kill Father Ignacio Ellacuria and to leave no witnesses.

  • On November 16 at one a.m., six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter are rousted from their beds and shot at the Jesuit residence at the UCA.

  • In December, Congressman Joe Moakley is appointed chairman of the Speaker's Special Task Force on El Salvador.

Colonel Benavides
Colonel Benavides

Colonel Ponce
Colonel Ponce
  • A U.S. army major implicates Salvadoran Colonel Benavides in the Jesuit murders; Benavides is detained.

  • In February, Congressman Moakley brings his task force to the site of the murders at the UCA. He releases an interim report on the murders in April.

  • Under United Nations (U.N.) auspices, the Salvadoran government and the FMLN agree to begin serious negotiations to end the civil war through political means.

  • The U.S. House of Representatives votes to reduce aid to El Salvador by 50 percent.

  • Colonel Ponce named El Salvador's Minister of Defense.

  • U.N. Political Advisor Alvaro de Soto becomes mediator for peace talks between the Salvadoran government and the FMLN.

Congressman Moakley
Congressman Joe Moakley delivers Speaker's Special Task Force on El Salvador Report
  • The FMLN executes two U.S. military advisors.

  • Congressman Moakley issues a report that accuses the armed forces of controlling the investigation in El Salvador.

  • Congress restores the 50 percent cut in aid to El Salvador, which is delayed until the Bush administration releases the funds months later.

  • The trial of the soldiers accused of killing the Jesuits ends with the conviction of Colonel Benavides and Lieutenant Mendoza.

  • Congressman Moakley announces that the Jesuits' murder was planned at a secret meeting of senior Salvadoran officers, including General Bustillo and then-Colonels Ponce, Zepeda and Elena Fuentes.

  • The Salvadoran government and the FMLN sign peace agreements in New York, paving the way for the end of the civil war.

  • In January, the Peace Accords of El Salvador are signed in Mexico.

  • A cease-fire begins, and the U.N. sets up operation in El Salvador to assure implementation of the Peace Accords.

  • In August, Jose Maria Tojiera, the Jesuit Provincial of Central America, requests that the Salvadoran National Assembly pardon Colonel Benavides and Lieutenant Mendoza for the murder of the Jesuits.

  • Bill Clinton is elected president of the United States.

  • The U.N. Truth Commission begins investigating acts of violence committed during El Salvador's civil war.

  • U.N. Secretary General states the Salvadoran government is not in compliance with the Peace Accords.

  • Colonel Benavides and Lieutenant Mendoza are released from prison.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher forms panel to investigate the U.S. State Department during the period covered by the Truth Commission. The Clinton administration declassifies 12,000 documents relating to 32 cases investigated by the Truth Commission.

    General Colin Powell
    General Colin Powell
  • The U.N. Truth Commission publishes its report, which names top Salvadoran military officers who ordered the killing of the Jesuits. The U.S. Congress holds hearings on the Truth Commission Report.

  • General Colin Powell visits El Salvador to congratulate the Salvadoran armed forces.

  • Defense Minister Ponce and others in the military high command resign.

  • The United States significantly decreases economic aid to El Salvador.

  • El Salvador holds the first elections that include coalition candidates of the FMLN and other opposition parties. U.N. and volunteer observers converge on El Salvador to ensure a free and open election process.

  • The ARENA party wins the presidency after a run-off and holds a majority in the National Assembly. The FMLN emerges as the country's second political force.

  • In the second elections since the end of El Salvador's civil war, the FMLN wins 45 percent of the National Assembly and mayorships of key cities, including the capitol, San Salvador.

  • The United States gives negligible aid to El Salvador to help it rebuild after the civil war.

  • William Ford, brother of one of the American churchwomen killed in El Salvador in 1980, begins a civil law suit against General Garcia and General Vides Casanova, who were implicated in their murders. The U.S. State Department has granted both Casanova and Garcia permanent residence in the United States by the U.S. State Department.

  • El Salvador elects another president from the ARENA Party, and the FMLN continues to increase its presence in the National Assembly.

  • The United States begins to set up a military base in El Salvador's only large airport. The FMLN asks the Salvadoran Supreme Court to review the agreement on constitutional grounds.

  • The jury in the civil trial of Generals Casanova and Garcia finds them not necessarily responsible for the murders of the churchwomen.

  • The Salvadoran Attorney General begins to investigate a case against former Salvadoran President Cristiani, General Ponce and General Bustillo in the killing of the Jesuits.

Timeline to 1994 excerpted with permission from the book, Paying the Price: Ignacio Ellacuria and the Murdered Jesuits of El Salvador by Teresa Whitfield. 1996-2000 by the filmmakers.

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