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El Salvador Forms Commission to Probe Death Squad Activity

Times Wire Services

El Salvador’s National Assembly has agreed to investigate alleged evidence linking death squad activity to rightist leader Roberto D’Aubuisson, who said he appreciates “the opportunity to be exonerated.”

With his fist in the air, D’Aubuisson was the first to raise his hand in the voting late Thursday in the assembly, which unanimously approved the formation of a panel to investigate the death squads.

“I hope that the commission is formed as soon as possible. I also want a commission to be formed to investigate the murder of Archbishop (Oscar Arnulfo) Romero,” D’Aubuisson said, referring to a 1980 killing that he has been accused of masterminding.

D’Aubuisson’s Denial

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“We (in the Arena party) are in complete agreement with the Christian Democrats who proposed this motion and are grateful to them for doing it,” said D’Aubuisson, who has vehemently denied having directed or participated in the death squads.

D’Aubuisson is a founder of the Nationalist Republican Alliance, a right-wing party known by its Spanish acronym, Arena. The party was victorious in legislative and municipal elections earlier this year. It wrested control of the assembly from the Christian Democrat Party and appears poised to win the 1989 presidential elections.

“The Christian Democrats want to get mileage from the idea and sell it especially internationally that it would be dangerous for Arena to win” in 1989, D’Aubuisson asserted.

In an emotional late night session, the 60-seat assembly approved the motion that was introduced in response to articles published by American newspapers, reporting the return of death squad activity and linking D’Aubuisson, a former National Guard major, to the killings.

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“We are before very clear evidence here,” said Antonio Guevara Lacayo, a top Christian Democrat official. " . . . The Salvadoran people have to judge if the dirty war of annihilation was or was not necessary.”

Right-wing and military death squads are blamed for the killing of thousands of suspected leftists in the early stages of El Salvador’s civil war, which still continues.

The new commission’s exact functions are yet to be outlined, and it is not clear if its formation might conflict with an amnesty decreed by President Jose Napoleon Duarte in August, 1987.

After joining four other Central American presidents in signing a regional peace plan, Duarte introduced an amnesty in which prosecution and punishment of death squad cases were closed, except in the assassination of Archbishop Romero.

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