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Human Rights group robbed after suing CIA for documents detailing their role in massacring 75,000 Salvadorans

The University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) said its office was recently burglarized just three weeks after it filed a contentious lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), alleging it trained and installed a Salvadoran colonel suspected of massacring tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the 1980s.

The culprits stole a desktop computer and hard drive with “sensitive details” about their lawsuit against the CIA, reports Court House News Service. Human Rights director Angelina Godoy said her office was the only one broken into and that there were no signs of forced entry.

Coincidentally, CIA director John Brennan happened to be in town speaking at the University of Washington on the Friday proceeding the weekend the information was stolen.

Center for Human Rights leaders said the hard drive contained “about 90 percent of the information relating” to their research into the Salvadoran massacres under Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Perez, which took place under President Ronald Reagan, whose administration gifted nearly $17 million in military aid to the South American country between 1946 and 1979, according to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

Military leaders installed by CIA massacred tens of thousands of Salvadorans in the 80s’

After reports spread that the government massacred peasants in several villages in January 1982, the following day Reagan audaciously asserted that “the Salvadoran government was making progress in human rights.”

Three days later, “soldiers stormed the homes of poor people in San Salvador, dragged out twenty people, and killed them,” wrote Zinn.

The United States’ “historic role” in El Salvador, “where 2 percent of the population owned 60 percent of the land, was to make sure governments were in power there that would support U.S. business interests, no matter how this impoverished the great majority of people.

“Popular rebellions that would threaten these business arrangements were to be opposed. When a popular uprising in 1932 threatened the military government, the United States sent a cruiser and two destroyers to stand by while the government massacred thirty thousand Salvadorans.”

In 1981, Col. Ochoa Perez “coordinated an operation that for nine days bombarded seven communities in the municipality of Victoria and blocked the population’s attempt to flee towards refugee camps in nearby Honduras with support of the Honduran military,” says UWCHR.

Today, Col. Ochoa Perez serves as a deputy in the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly and “continues to wield power,” enjoying his freedom under the amnesty law. However, he is being investigated for the crimes he committed by the Salvadoran Supreme Court and the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.

‘We’re concerned the robbery was in retaliation to our lawsuit filed against the CIA’

While the Center for Human Rights said they have backups of the stolen information, they’re not concerned about what was lost, “but what someone else may have gained.” The hard drive contained “sensitive details of personal testimonies and pending investigations,” UWCHR said.

Due to the seriousness of the lawsuit, the center admitted that “(T)he timing of this incident – in the wake of the recent publicity around our freedom of information lawsuit against the CIA regarding information on a suspected perpetrator of grave human rights violations in El Salvador – invites doubt as to potential motives.”

No signs of forced entry, sophisticated job

“This could, of course, be an act of common crime,” said the center, “But we are concerned because it is also possible this was an act of retaliation for our work.

“There are a few elements that make this an unusual incident. First, there was no sign of forcible entry; the office was searched but its contents were treated carefully and the door was locked upon exit, characteristics which do not fit the pattern of opportunistic campus theft.”

Additional sources:

Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1942-present.

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