Wednesday, March 24, 2010
REMEMBERING ARCHBISHOP ROMERO
Oscar Romero was a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who became the archbishop of San Salvador. In a country where the leaders of the Church traditionally sided with the repressive military dictatorship (supported by the United States), Romero bravely spoke out. A courageous soul living under Nazi-style tyranny, he sided with the poor and the oppressed. Thirty years ago today, he was assassinated by the death squads while serving mass.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and the United States government gave millions of dollars of military support, weapons, training and soldiers to the brutally repressive government of El Salvador, and tried to convince the American people this was a war against communism. Reagan and George Bush senior, and many of the cronies who turned up again during the Iraq debacle, designed and directed a government that used death squads to torture and silence dissent, murdered church workers and students and labor leaders, and wiped its bloody hands on the American flag. Tens of thousands were murdered and mutilated and "disappeared."
Excerpts from Oscar Romero's last sermon:
"We have lived through a tremendously tragic week. I could not give you the facts before, but a week ago last Saturday, on 15 March, one of the largest and most distressing military operations was carried out in the countryside. The villages affected were La Laguna, Plan de Ocotes and El Rosario. The operation brought tragedy: a lot of ranches were burned, there was looting, and-inevitably-people were killed. In La Laguna, the attackers killed a married couple, Ernesto Navas and Audelia Mejia de Navas, their little children, Martin and Hilda, thirteen and seven years old, and eleven more peasants."
"Amnesty International issued a press release in which it described the repression of the peasants, especially in the area of Chalatenango. The week's events confirm this report in spite of the fact the government denies it. As I entered the church, I was given a cable that says, "Amnesty International confirmed today [that was yesterday] that in El Salvador human rights are violated to extremes that have not been seen in other countries." That is what Patricio Fuentes (spokesman for the urgent action section for Central America in Swedish Amnesty International) said at a press conference in Managua, Nicaragua...He pointed out that Amnesty International recently condemned the government of El Salvador, alleging that it was responsible for six hundred political assassinations. The Salvadorean government defended itself against the charges, arguing that Amnesty International based its condemnation on unproved assumptions."
"Fuentes said that Amnesty had established that in El Salvador human rights are violated to a worse degree than the repression in Chile after the coupe d'etat. The Salvadorean government also said that the six hundred dead were the result of armed confrontations between army troops and guerrillas. Fuentes said that during his stay u l El Salvador, he could see that the victims had been tortured before their deaths and mutilated afterward."
"I would like to make a special appeal to the men of the army, and specifically to the ranks of the National Guard, the police and the military. Brothers, you come from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, "Thou shalt not kill." No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression."
Read the complete text of Archbishop Romero's last sermon, click HERE.
At Romero's funeral, the largest demonstration in Salvador's history, peaceful followers were fired upon by army snipers from rooftops. The snipers killed thirty people and wounded hundreds. This was typical of the Gestapo tactics of a dictatorship out to repress dissent at all costs--a government supported by your tax dollars.
From the Gallery of 20th century martyrs at Westminster Abbey-Mother Elizabeth of Russia, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Archbishop Óscar Romero and Pastor Dietrick Bonhoeffer.
The Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard published an excellent article in the Nieman Watchdog by Craig Pyes, entitled, "(Un) Covering The Death Squads in El Salvador."
"For those of us who covered El Salvador during the vicious civil war," says Pyes, "the archbishop’s killing was not only a tragic event for the people of that country, but it gave rise to a very personal anger that such actions could go uninvestigated and unpunished."
Read the Craig Pyes article HERE.
It wasn't until four American nuns were beaten, raped and killed by the Salvadoran death squads in 1982 that most Americans started to question the official story. Briefly. Bullets and thumbscrews and helicopters were stopped in the pipeline while the US Congress was assured that our mission was going well, we were winning against the commies, and besides these hothead Latinos are violent by nature. The public was having misgivings, however. TV images of the nuns' mutilated corpses being exhumed from hastily dug graves on the road between the airport and the city of San Salvador spoke louder than the government spin.
Even with such an obvious atrocity on his hands, Reagan's Secretary of State Al Haig said “the nuns may have run through a roadblock or may have accidentally been perceived to have been doing so, and there may have been an exchange of fire." Haig was putting out the talking points. "Maybe they were pistol packing nuns," he quipped.
The bodies of the nuns were exhumed from a shallow grave, and US military aid stopped...briefly. There were direct links to death squads working for the government, but nothing happened. Reagan wanted to hold control of this part of the world, which for so long had been run by surrogate thugs as our own private plantation.