Friday, October 4, 2013

Tutela Legal: battleground of memory and oblivion in El Salvador

Roberto Huezo Vía crucis del pueblo salvadoreño UCA c. 1982
The Legal Tutelage Office Tutela Legal has suddenly become a symbol of the bitter conflict between "remembering" and "forgetting" also manifest in current efforts by Salvadoran human rights agencies and NGO's to rescind the Amnesty Law of 1993.  In the official communication announcing the closure (dated October 3, the Archbishop argues for the need to restructure Tutela Legal for a new historical moment.  The closing of Tutela Legal locks the door on "aquel momento histórico," that distant past of armed conflict.  The Archbishop promises an ambiguous replacement organism that will be attentive to the new needs of today and to a future El Salvador.  The Archbishop's vision of restructuring and progress is contingent on the wiping away of the records of human rights violations held in the Tutela Legal.  

The closing of the Tutela Legal sends the message that the human rights violations of the war of the 80's are irrelevant to today's political context.  The move invites Salvadorans to lock up their traumatic memories of the past, so that the country can progress toward "un futuro" founded on the principles of justice and peace.  All of this has come about on the heels of the Supreme Court of Justice's acceptance of a demand to revisit the legality of the Amnesty Law of 1993.  In light of this, Archbishop Escobar Alas' closure of Tutela Legal appears to be a fumbling attempt at damage control.

The preface to the Archbishops letter follows:
Es natural en la Iglesia, sus constantes reformas y reorganización para prestar el mejor servicio según las propias exigencias sociales de cada momento histórico.Dicho lo anterior, como Arquidiócesis de San Salvador comunicamos oficialmente la disolución de La oficina de Tutela Legal, institución que fundó monseñor Arturo Rivera Damas, en 1982, como respuesta a la necesidad de prestar asistencia legal y social de las víctimas de graves violaciones a los derechos humanos, durante el conflicto armado...

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