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Army, Police Raid Union, Refugees, Women’s Offices; 100 Arrested

April 21, 1989

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Soldiers and police arrested more than 100 people in raids Wednesday and Thursday on a leftist union federation, a refugee organization and a women’s association, group leaders said.

Military authorities said 72 people were arrested and 20 of these later were released.

Defense Minister Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova met with lawmakers Thursday to discuss drafting legislation to curb organizations that the military considers guerrilla fronts.

Francisco Martinez, a director of the National Union of Salvadoran Workers, said the raids formed part of ″an escalation of repression by the armed forces and Arena.″

Arena stands for the rightist Republican Nationalist Alliance, which defeated the incumbent Christian Democratic Party in the March 19 presidential election.

The raids came hours after Attorney General Roberto Garcia Alvarado was assassinated by a bomb put on the roof of his Jeep Cherokee while it was stopped at a traffic light.

President-elect Alfredo Cristiani of Arena and U.S. Ambassador William Walker both have accused the rebels of launching an assassination and bombing campaign to try to provoke human rights abuses by the military and incoming Arena government.

Treasury Police and soldiers invaded the downtown San Salvador headquarters of the Christian Committee for Displaced People shortly after midnight Wednesday, said Tomasa Ruiz, a director of the group.

She told The Associated Press they arrested about 75 people, including about 30 children. A Treasury Police spokesman said 57 people were arrested, including three foreigners - a U.S. citizen, a Briton and a West German.

The American, identified as Victoria Groebel, 31, of Baltimore, and British citizen Evelyn Scarfe were released late Thursday, a Treasury Police official said on condition of anonymity. The official said he believed immigration authorities planned to deport the two.

Efforts to reach immigration authorities at the immigration department headquarters and the international airport by telephone were unsuccessful.

Both women reportedly worked with the Christian Committee.

West German Hans Gebauer was released earlier Thursday, authorities said.

Treasury Police Col. Francisco Calderon told reporters the raiders had a search warrant. He said three wounded guerrillas were among those arrested and would be turned over to the Red Cross.

Mauricio Ortega, 22, denied he was a rebel fighter. He spoke with journalists at Treasury Police headquarters.

Calderon said people still held would be charged within 72 hours or released, as stipulated by the constitution.

Treasury Police entered Unified Labor Federation headquarters late Wednesday and arrested about 20 unionists, according to union leaders and military authorities. Police displayed a pistol, explosives, a small printing press and leftist literature they said were confiscated.

Union leaders reported about 10 women were arrested in a raid on the downtown office of the Salvadoran Women’s Association late Wednesday.

Vides and Col. Rene Ponce, chief of the joint chiefs of staff, met members of the Arena-controlled legislature to discuss legislation that would counter what the armed forces contend is stepped-up guerrilla violence.

Vides told journalists he discussed a possible state of siege, which would suspend constitutional guarantees. He said he did not believe such a drastic measure was needed now.

Union leader Martinez promised ″to intensify our actions to defeat Arena’s plan.″

Arena founder Roberto D’Aubuisson has been linked to right-wing death squad activity in the early 1980s. Arena leaders deny ties to death squads. Cristiani, Arena’s victorious presidential candidate, has not been accused of such involvement.

Cristiani takes office June 1 from incumbent Christian Democrat Jose Napoleon Duarte.

″Since Cristiani won, repression has increased,″ Ms. Ruiz said. ″The Christian Democrats repressed us, too, but now it is more blatant.″

She denied the displaced persons group was affiliated with leftist guerrillas.

The war between the rebel Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and the U.S.-backed government has displaced an estimated 1 million people.

Two radio stations received anonymous telephone calls Thursday saying the Gerardo Barrios Civic Forces - not known previously - was responsible for Garcia Alvarado’s assassination.

Gen. Gerardo Barrios was a 19th-century statesman considered the founder of the Salvadoran army.

There was no way to confirm the authenticity of the call or the existence of the organization.

Update hourly