A retired Salvadoran general on Friday acknowledged for the first time that the armed forces were responsible for a notorious 1981 massacre of more than 1,000 people during the country's civil war.
Juan Rafael Bustillo, a former commander of the Air Force, told a court the elite Atlacatl Battalion carried out the El Mozote massacre in eastern El Salvador in which unarmed villagers, most of them women and children, were slaughtered. Bustillo testified he had had no part in the operation which he said was conducted at the behest of Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, commander of the feared Atlacatl Battalion.
"War sometimes gives rise to something in the minds of people that attaches no value to the lives of others." Bustillo then continued "I think it was on his initiative. That's my reasoning, it was on his initiative that he gave the order to kill the people of El Mozote, and the other surrounding cantons," the retired general told the court. "I almost feel it was like a moment, some instance of madness on the part of Colonel Monterrosa…"
According to a U.N. report, soldiers tortured and executed over 1,000 residents of El Mozote and surrounding hamlets in the Morazan department, 180 km (110 miles) northeast of San Salvador, as they searched for guerrillas in December 1981.