Jonathan Blitzer is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His journalism has also appeared in The New York TimesThe GuardianThe Atlantic, and The New Republic, and he is a translator of literary fiction, chiefly for Words Without Borders. 

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‘My Only Friend Is My Conscience’: Face to Face With El Salvador’s Cold Killer

Soldiers searching bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador, 1980

Talking about the civil war was futile with Ochoa. A rambling discussion of Vietnam and ancient Rome, and Putin, Napoleon, and General MacArthur (three of his idols) was peppered with bald, personal pronouncements. When I brought up the theft of CIA documents again, he leaned back and looked at me for the first time with an expression of hostility. Five months later, the Salvadoran Supreme Court declared the country’s amnesty law unconstitutional. With the amnesty law lifted, a judge had recently agreed to hear a human rights case against Ochoa, and the colonel was said to be retaining counsel.