Facing a threatened cut in U.S. military aid in Congress, President Alfredo Cristiani of El Salvador assured President Bush Monday that he is committed to prosecuting the killers of six Jesuit priests last year.
After lobbying Congress last week to protect the more than $80 million a year his country receives in American military aid, Cristiani told Bush the investigation into the murders continues, despite the less-than-complete cooperation of some members of the Salvadoran armed forces."President Cristiani made it clear that he wants to see this case pursued to the end," Assistant Secretary of State Bernard Aronson told reporters. "President Bush made it clear that's his desire as well."
Aronson quoted Cristiani as assuring Bush "that in the ugly case of the Jesuits, we will push it to the end."
Said Bush, "I want to encourage you to do what you are trying to do to get to the bottom of this."
The Senate is soon to consider legislation that would withhold 50 percent of the military assistance El Salvador receives from the United States, in large part because of the killings of the priests last November.
Cristiani has promised in the past to press the investigation no matter where it leads, even into the high command of his army. Col. Guillermo Alfredo Benavides, who is accused of ordering the killings, has been arrested in the case, along with three lieutenants and four privates.