Doctor says he treated torture victims
Ex-Salvadoran officials on trial
BY SABRA AYRES
WEST PALM BEACH - A doctor told jurors Monday he treated victims
of torture by Salvadoran soldiers in 1979, months before he, too, was kidnapped
tortured for 22 days.
Dr. Juan Romagoza Arce was the first witness in a federal civil
trial of two former Salvadoran military commanders accused of letting soldiers
command torture, rape and murder civilians.
Romagoza Arce and two other plaintiffs in the case want jurors
to find former Salvadoran Defense Minister Jose Guillermo Garcia and ex-National
Director-General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova responsible under the 1992 federal Torture Victims Protection Act.
Both defendants now live in retirement in Florida.
It is the former officials' second federal civil trial in West Palm Beach in two years.
A federal jury in November 2000 found they could not be held liable for soldiers raping and murdering four American churchwomen in 1980.
The plaintiffs in this trial do not need to prove that the military leaders knew they, specifically, were being tortured.
They only need to show that Garcia and Vides Casanova knew soldiers were committing atrocities and did nothing to prevent it.
Garcia, 68, of Plantation, and Vides Casanova, 64, of Daytona Beach, could be forced to pay millions if they are held accountable by jurors.
''The generals systematically waged a war against unarmed civilians,'' said plaintiffs' attorney James Green during opening statements.
Green said the generals did nothing as civilians were repeatedly
tortured, sometimes as close as 150 feet from the commanders' offices.
Green said they
failed to take action against the abuse because they were trying to eliminate opposition to their military dictatorship.
The defense waived its right to give opening statements and allowed the plaintiffs to call their witnesses first.
Romagoza Arce said he was shot in the foot in a Dec. 12, 1980, raid by soldiers on a rural clinic.
He said he was tortured for three weeks in a jail cell because he was suspected of having leftist political leanings.
The two other plaintiffs are Carlos Mauricio, a science teacher, and Neris Gonzalez, the director of an environmental organization.
In the earlier trial, jurors found that Garcia and Vides Casanova did not have control over the soldiers when the churchwomen were killed.
Attorneys for the churchwomen say they are seeking a new trial.