WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Salvadoran former army officer convicted for his part in one of the most heinous crimes of his nation’s 1980-92 civil war – the execution style murders of six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter – has been jailed and awaits deportation in California, authorities said.
Gonzalo Guevara, a 43-year-old former lieutenant, was arrested earlier this month in Los Angeles on immigration charges. Officials said he illegally entered the United States in January 2005.
Guevara Cerritos was one of the leaders of the squad of soldiers that in the predawn hours of Nov. 16, 1989, raided the Jesuit-runUniversity of Central America in San Salvador.
The soldiers, acting on orders from superiors who viewed the priest-professors as sympathetic to leftist rebels, ordered five of the six clergymen to lie face down in the grass behind a dormitory, and killed them with assault-rifle blasts to the head.
Another priest, the cook and her 16-year-old daughter were gunned down inside the building.
The troopers left behind a message scrawled on cardboard that the massacre had been carried out by leftist guerrillas.
“We will not allow the United States to be a refuge for foreigners seeking to escape a criminal past. Exclusion from the United States of violators of human rights is one of the priorities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said Robert Schoch, head of the L.A. office of the U.S. Homeland Security Department.
Guevara is being held at a federal detention center in Lancaster, California pending deportation to El Salvador.
The ex-lieutenant was convicted in 1991 for his part in the massacre and served two years of a three-year sentence.
He benefited from a general amnesty enacted by the Salvadoran government in 1993.