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					                                     UPDATE         /   DOMINICAN            REPUBLIC




                       JUSTICE
      DELAYED-BUT
       NOT DENIED
          A historic ruling confronts a 25-year
        cover-up and advances the fight against
          impunity in the Dominican Republic.

                                BY DANTE ORTIZ



                                               Adriana Howley in front of her slain
                                               son Orlando Martinez's portrait.


    n July, Dominicans celebrated            General Ney Rafael Nivar Seijas          in the Dominican Republic that a
    guilty verdicts handed down              two months after the crime, includ-      high-ranking military official has
    against four confessed murder-           ing information about who was            been prosecuted for murder or tor-
ers of Orlando Martinez, a young             involved, their motives and the          ture.
journalist killed in 1975 for report-        power relations involved in the             Two of the defendants who were
ing on human rights abuses and cor-          case. Pou Castro and his men had         convicted, Pou Castro and Rafael
ruption during the Joaquin Balaguer          commandeered the car that fol-           Alfredo Lluberes Ricart, were top
government. The crowd in the                 lowed Martinez as he drove from          members of the military who served
courtroom cheered and shouted                his office. They signalled him to        Balaguer during his 12-year reign
"Orlando lives!" Martinez, a mem-            stop, surrounded him and without         after the 1965 U.S. invasion that
ber of the central committee of the          saying a word shot him point blank.      paved his way to power. The other
outlawed Dominican Communist                 The killers drove off and switched       two were former policemen
Party, was 31 years old when the             cars four blocks away. Then they         Mariano Cabrera Durin and Luis
killers summoned him from his                changed clothes and went to a party      Emilio de la Rosa Beras. The latter
office at the newspaper El                   at the house of a prominent lawyer.      two were in charge of counterinsur-
Nacional,supposedly to do an inter-          The lawyer provided Pou Castro           gency and tied to paramilitary
view. En route, he was gunned                with an alibi for 24 years, claiming     groups. As part of Balaguer's
down in his car on a Santo                   that the general had been at his         "Operation Cleanup" against left-
Domingo street.                              house all afternoon and evening the      ists, they were responsible for hun-
  At trial, the horrifying details of        day of the murder.                       dreds of kidnappings, illegal raids,
the planning, execution, conspiracy             The guilty verdicts marked a          disappearances and other crimes-
and cover-up of the crime finally            milestone, not only because the per-     virtually all of which remain
came out. According to testimony,            petrators' identities were finally       unpunished.
the main perpetrator, General                revealed, but also because after 25         At the time he was killed,
Joaquin Pou Castro, confessed all            years, light was cast on the conspir-    Martinez was the most widely read,
the details to then-Chief of Police          acy that had for so long protected       discussed and criticized journalist
                                             the men who had planned the crime.       in the Dominican Republic. No one      0
Dante Ortiz is a professor of history and    The rulings are also historic because    could ignore what he wrote in his      0
sociology at the Universidad Aut6noma        they mark the first time justice has     column, "Microscope," in El
de Santo Domingo and the Instituto                                                                                           0

Tecnolbgico de Santo Domingo. He is          been meted out for state crimes          Nacional, and in the weekly
also a contributingwriter for El Nacional.   committed in the 1970s under the         Ahora!, for which he was editor in
Translated from the Spanish by NACLA.        Balaguer regime, and the first time      chief. His criticisms of Juan Bosch
8                                                                                       NACIA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS
                                  UPDATE /             DOMINICAN           REPUBLIC



irritated the leaders of the                 time the statute of limitations was      fraud was so widespread in 1994,
Dominican Liberation Party (PLD),            about to expire. Her other son,          and so potentially destabilizing, that
and his comments on Balaguer                 Edmundo Martinez, was also killed        the U.S. State Department sent offi-
raised the hackles of Reformist              after it appeared he was close to dis-   cials to the Dominican Republic to
Social Christian Party (PRSC)                covering the truth behind his broth-     broker a compromise between the
members. One article in particular           er's murder. He had been receiv-         government and the opposition. The
tried the patience of the political          ing- and ignoring--death threats.        result, the Pact for Democracy,
elites: In it, Martfnez suggested that       His murder also shook the country,       changed the Constitution to prohibit
Balaguer ought to board a plane              but Balaguer remained unmoved            the successive reelection of
and leave the country. In another            and even called Adriana Howley "a        Balaguer, and reduced his term to
piece, he denounced the constant             fool."                                   two years, with new elections
threats against him and wrote that if           But she was not working in a          scheduled for 1996.
anything were to happen to him, at           vacuum. Over the next two decades,          Also as part of the Pact, the par-
least one General-whom he                    journalists' associations and other      ties agreed to create a commission
named- should be questioned. It is           professional groups, church com-         to choose members of the Supreme
rumored that Balaguer became irate                                                    Court. This was especially impor-
after reading a Martinez article and                                                  tant for making the judiciary rela-
shouted: "That young man is not                                                       tively independent of the executive.
going to allow me to govern!" The             While impunity for the                  Responsibility for choosing the
story continues that those who                political elite still exists,           Supreme Court in 1997 fell to legal
heard Balaguer's tirade interpreted                                                   experts with liberal leanings, which
it as an order to carry out the assas-          the sentence raises                   meant a break from the old political
sination plot. But the tale is still                                                  control that presidents and official
simply a rumor, because Balaguer's                hopes that more                     parties had exercised over decisions
collaborators have never been will-               criminals will be                   made by the highest court of the
ing to say who really gave the                                                        land. The new autonomy meant that
order.                                          brought to justice.                   judges could travel the country to
   Following Martinez's murder in                                                     pick applicants and give them oral
March 1975, demands for justice                                                       exams, increasing the chances for
from wide sectors of society grew                                                     making for the best selection possi-
steadily over the next two decades.          munities, students, liberal and left     ble. All this was of utmost impor-
In response, the killers conspired to        parties held days of remembrance         tance for achieving the modest
hide the investigation and its find-         and called for justice. In addition to   advances observed in the judiciary.
ings from the public. In addition,           making public demands, they point-       Without them, the trial of those
journalists were blackmailed, and            ed out the guilty parties--including     implicated in Orlando Martinez's
relatives of several judges assigned         the most guilty of all, ex-President     death would never have gone for-
to the case received threats so that         Joaquin Balaguer. Judge Juan             ward.
they would quash it, postpone it or          Miguel Castillo Pantale6n finally           Groundwork was also laid for the
remove defendants from the pro-              ruled to officially open the case in     independence shown by the judge
ceedings. The official opening of            1997. By then, more than 20 years        who opened the case and by another
the case was thus blocked for 23             had passed since Orlando                 who led the discovery phase. The
years, making it impossible for the          Martinez's murder. But new devel-        investigations were based on police
trial to proceed.                            opments in the 1990s had finally         records from October 1975, and on
   Despite this obstruction, and             pushed the case towards justice.         audiotapes made by Chief of Police
despite the Attorney General's lack            One vital factor was the 1994          General Nivar, which he had safe-
of will during the Balaguer govern-          signing of the Pact for                  guarded at a Miami bank after
ment and Dominican Revolutionary             Democracy--a resolution of the           receiving death threats. Attempting
Party (PRD) administrations, a               May electoral fraud and subsequent       to further protect himself, he also
group of Orlando Martinez's rela-            political crisis that occurred when      gave a copy of the confession tapes
tives, friends and colleagues refused        Balaguer blocked Jos6 Francisco          to the perpetrators of the crime and
to let the case die. Martinez's moth-        Pe-na G6mez's rise to power. While       to Balaguer. The latter was unfazed:
er, Adriana Howley, was an uncom-            fraud had tainted every election in      He felt sure he could count on U.S.
promising leader in this struggle.           which Balaguer was a candidate,          support to keep him in power.
 She kept the petition for a trial open      the contests of 1990 and 1994 were          As already noted, public pressure
 by filing a new complaint every             outrageously crooked. Evidence of        played a significant role in uncover-
VOL XXXIV, No 4    JANUARY/FEBRUARY   2001
                                                                                                                           9
                                    UPDATE          / DOMINICAN              REPUBLIC



ing the facts behind the case. But it       decades to bring justice in her son's       ment helped to power by the sup-
could only go so far, since Balaguer        killing, she had died six months            port of Balaguer.
and high-ranking military officers          before the trial-even as Balaguer              Despite this muzzling of the judi-
who were involved were left out of          celebrated his 94th birthday.)              ciary, wide sectors of society have
the 1997 indictment because of                After being convicted on all the          interpreted the sentence as a bench-
political machinations that flowed          charges, Pou Castro was sentenced           mark from which to demand the
particularly from Balaguer's sup-           to the maximum of 30 years in               reopening of other cases still not
port for then-President Leonel              prison, Llubere Ricart and Cabrera          brought to justice--the most glaring
Fernandez's administration. The             Durin each received 20 years, and           of which is the murder of
Attorney General at the time, Dr.           De la Rosa Beras got three. While           Autonomous University professor
Francisco Dominguez Brito,                  many lauded this outcome, the               and prominent left-wing activist
reopened the case after it fell into        most militant social sectors                Narciso Gonzalez, who in 1994 was
limbo with the firing of Judge              demanded that the trial be reopened        kidnapped, brutally beaten and
Castillo Pantale6n, a dismissal             so that Balaguer would have to              thrown out of a helicopter after
                                                                                       protesting electoral fraud that year
                                                                                        at university assemblies. Human
                                                                                       rights activists reckon that the
                                                                                        moment has now arrived to review
                                                                                        every case whose statute of limita-
                                                                                       tions has not expired. The crimes of
                                                                                        state imputed to the PRD govern-
                                                                                       ment headed by Dr. Salvador Jorge
                                                                                       Blanco from 1982 to 1986, and
                                                                                       those of the ten-year regime led by
                                                                                       Balaguer which followed, are not
                                                                                       covered by an Amnesty Law enact-
                                                                                       ed in 1978. These crimes include
                                                                                       the April 1984 massacre of 118
                                                                                       people at mass protests against
                                                                                       Blanco's neoliberal structural
                                                                                       adjustment policies. An additional
                                                                                       500 protesters were injured in the
                                                                                       three days of demonstrations.
Balaguer (seated,above flag) and his political-military machine in 1991. Evidence of      So while many hail the sentence
state crimes during his reign is increasinglycoming to light.
                                                                                       because the perpetrators will finally
 widely seen as the government's            come to court and undergo ques-            be punished, others criticize it as
response to his commitment to pur-         tioning about the way he incrimi-           incomplete, elitist, politically influ-
 sue the case, despite the many            nated himself in a book he                  enced and manipulated. What
obstacles placed in the way of the         authored, Memories of a Courtier            everybody does agree on, though, is
judicial system. After Castillo             in the Trujillo Era. In the book, he       that the sentence is a symbol of and
Pantale6n was fired, the case was          writes that he knew who Orlando             a stimulus to increasing public
assigned to Judge Katia Miguelina          Martinez's murderers were. In               power, greater judicial autonomy
Jim6nez, who had to face the                addition, he left a blank page in          and to the prospect of bringing
stalling tactics of the defense            memory of Martinez and admitted             more criminals to trial in the
lawyers, to the point where she had        that he had given a document to a           Dominican Republic. However, the
to insist that interrogatories be done     friend-to be made public only               political networks that rely on intim-
on people implicated in the case,          after his death-revealing all the           idation, clientelism and corruption
including dozens of witnesses who          facts behind the murder. But the            are still intact and bent on maintain-
rehashed the details of their partici-     judge ignored this fact by leaving it       ing the impunity of the political
pation with those who planned the          out of the records of the case. By                                                   5
                                                                                       elite. The possibility even exists that 0e
crime. The trial was televised, and        omitting four ex-generals and               through     legal technicalities and
the whole nation watched. (Absent,         Balaguer from the investigation and         political deals the convictions could
however, was Adriana Howley,               indictment, the judge was very like-        be overturned by an Appellate
Orlando Martinez's mother. After           ly acting under pressure from the           Court, allowing Pou Castro and his
her tireless efforts for more than two     FernAndez government, a govern-             henchmen to go free. N

10                                                                                        NACLA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS

				
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