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El Salvador Rights Body Urges Probe of Poet's 1975 Killing

Poet Roque Dalton was killed by members of a guerrilla group to which he belonged who accused him of being a CIA agent

Poet Roque Dalton receiving the Casa de las Américas poetry prize in 1969 for his work "Taberna y otros lugares", photo: commons.wikimedia
1 year ago

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — El Salvador’s human rights agency said Tuesday that the government has failed to properly investigate the 1975 killing of poet Roque Dalton, who was allegedly slain by leaders of a leftist guerrilla group to which he belonged.

The rebel group later joined the Farabundo Martí National Liberation front, the forerunner of the current FMLN political party that governs El Salvador.

Dalton was a political activist who joined the Revolutionary Army of the People, and reports at the time said he was killed by his own comrades because they suspected he might be an infiltrator.

El Salvador’s attorney general for the defense of human rights, David Morales, said the government should “carry out all reasonable actions to investigate these events.”

Dalton’s relatives petitioned prosecutors in 2010 to file homicide charges against two former rebel commanders who reputedly ordered the slaying.

The complaint named former Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front leader Joaquín Villalobos and Jorge Meléndez. Meléndez denied the accusation, but Villalobos acknowledged that rebel leaders ordered Dalton killed, reportedly after colleagues accused him of treason and being a CIA agent.

In 2012, a judge closed the case, ruling the statute of limitations had run out.

Morales said that “there is no statute of limitations on serious violations of human rights” and the government “should carry out all reasonable actions to investigate these events.”

In particular, Morales said, the government should try to find Dalton’s body and return it to his family.

Dalton’s son, Juan José, said the family has been struggling for years to get justice in the case, but that the government “has allowed the murder of this great, important intellectual to go unpunished.”

The Salvadoran government fought a 12-year civil war with rebel groups before signing peace accords in 1992. The former rebels became a political party and later won the presidency.

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