El Salvador: CIA Agent, Military commander, War Criminal
By JULIA PRESTON
November 19, 2005
A federal court in Memphis yesterday found a former military colonel from El Salvador - and 20-year CIA veteran - responsible for crimes against humanity during that country's civil war in the 1980's and ordered him to pay $6 million in damages.
The nine-member jury found that the colonel, Nicolás Carranza, had "command responsibility" for the torture of a Salvadoran who was forced to confess falsely to killing an American military adviser, Lt. Cmdr. Albert Schaufelberger, in 1983.
Colonel Carranza was the vice minister of defense, El Salvador's second-highest military commander, from 1979 to 1981, and in 1983 he was head of the Treasury Police, the most notoriously violent of the country's security forces.
Mr. Carranza, who moved to Memphis in 1985 and is now an American citizen, testified that he was a paid informant for the Central Intelligence Agency for two decades, including the years that were the focus of the trial. His tie to the agency was corroborated at the trial by the American ambassador to El Salvador at the time, Robert White.
The verdict was a victory for human rights groups that have been seeking to prosecute foreign military commanders linked to rights violations, especially from the wars in Central America, who have settled in the United States.
"It makes it very clear that in a U.S. court a military commander can be held responsible for the abuses of subordinates," said Carolyn Patty Blum, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Ms. Blum, the senior legal adviser to the Center for Justice and Accountability, which brought the suit against Mr. Carranza, said the verdict was also the first legal finding of crimes against humanity by the Salvadoran security forces during the civil war between the conservative government and leftist rebels. Those security forces were strongly supported by the Reagan administration, which also aided rebels fighting the Marxist government of nearby Nicaragua....
Mr. Carranza, who retired in 2001 after working as a security guard in a Memphis museum, said he believed that the only "stain" on his military career was his collaboration with the C.I.A.