Photo: Col. Inocente Orlando Montano
One of 15 Salvadoran military men indicted in Spain for the 1989 murders of five Spanish Jesuits in the Central American nation pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying on U.S. immigration documents.
Retired Col. Inocente Orlando Montano, 70, faces up to 45 years in prison.
Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court in Boston.
Montano has been in the United States since at least 2001 and the following year he successfully applied for Temporary Protected Status, a benefit the U.S. government extends to migrants from countries battered by natural disasters or internal conflict.
Documents presented in court showed that Montano concealed his military service on his initial application for TPS and on subsequent applications for renewal.
U.S. authorities later learned that Montano had been part of an army unit blamed for a number of atrocities during El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war, including the slaughter of six Jesuit priests and two other people at the Central American University, or UCA.
On Nov. 16, 1989, Salvadoran soldiers invaded the UCA campus in San Salvador and killed then-chancellor Ignacio Ellacuria and four other Spanish priests: Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Amando Lopez and Juan Ramon Moreno, along with Salvadoran Jesuit Joaquin Lopez.
Also slain were a cook and her 16-year-old daughter.
The massacre came at the height of the war between the Salvadoran military and FMLN rebels, a conflict that left some 80,000 dead.
Spain’s Cabinet agreed last December to request the extradition of 15 Salvadoran military men for the murders of the Spanish Jesuits.
The criminal prosecution in Spain stems from the nationality of the five priests and from the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” the same doctrine that led to the 1998 arrest in Britain of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on the orders of National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon.
While 13 of the men being sought are in El Salvador, Montano and Lt. Hector Ulises Cuenca reside in the United States.
“I believe the government of the United States will begin the extradition procedure requested by Spain once he (Montano) is in prison,” Carolyn Patty Blum, senior legal adviser with the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, told Efe.
“There is no legal reason for the U.S. government not to carry out the process,” she said.
Of the 14 members of the Salvadoran military who stood trial in September 1991 for the murders, only two were found guilty. Though sentenced to 30 years in prison, they were released thanks to a broad post-civil-war amnesty.