Retired General Rene Emilio Ponce, who was accused of killing six Jesuits at the Central American University in El Salvador on Nov. 16, 1989, has died.
Ponce underwent heart surgery at the Military Hospital in San Salvador last week, but died of organ failure on May 2.
A truth commission established by the United Nations in El Salvador concluded that on the night of Nov. 15, 1989, Ponce “ordered Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides to kill Father Ignacio Ellacuria,” the rector of the university, and “to leave no witnesses.”
Two days before the murders, then-Colonel Ponce ordered a search be carried out at the campus after he received a tip that 200 members of a leftist guerilla movement had infiltrated the university.
The six Jesuits were killed along with their cook and her 15-year-old daughter.
According to some analysts, the Salvadoran army saw the university as “a legitimate military target” not because of the priests’ support of Marxist liberation theology, but because in practice it functioned as the intelligence headquarters of the leftist group.
Archbishop emeritus Fernando Saenz Lacalle told EWTN News on May 5 he is confident Ponce’s death will not upset the country. “I don’t think the history of El Salvador will be disrupted at all by the death of this member of the military or that of any other, as ultimately they are not in power nor are they exercising much influence on the direction of the country,” he said.
“I think that when there is true democracy in a country, as time goes on that democracy is strengthened. I think this applies to El Salvador,” the archbishop said.