WASHINGTON (CNS) – Family and friends of four American churchwomen murdered in 1980 welcomed a Florida immigration judge’s decision that paves the way for the deportation of a former Salvadoran defense minister found to have a role in their killings.
James Kazel, brother of Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel of Cleveland, said the expected deportation to El Salvador of Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova was “past due as far as I’m concerned.”
“He got away with murder and got away with living in the United States,” Kazel told Catholic News Service from his home in Avon, Ohio. “He didn’t deserve to be here.”
Vides, who served as defense minister from 1983 to 1989 before retiring and moving to Florida, commanded the Salvadoran National Guard in December, 1980, when the women were murdered by guardsmen along a rural road outside the capital, San Salvador.
Five guardsmen were convicted of the killings in 1984 and served long jail sentences.
“Justice moves kind of slow in the U.S., but we finally got our mission accomplished,” Kazel said. “It was a thing that everybody from the families was waiting for.”
The Feb. 23 decision by Judge James Grim of an immigration court in Orlando marks the first time federal prosecutors established that a high-ranking foreign military leader can be deported for violating human rights. Grim found there was enough evidence to deport Vides for his role in the murder and torture of civilians.
The judge found that Vides assisted in the murders of Sister Dorothy, Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke and lay volunteer Jean Donovan of Cleveland.