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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/30/10

U.S. Plunges Central America Back To Era Of Coups And Death Squads

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Message Rick Rozoff
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March 24th of this year was the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of El Salvador.

His killing drew attention to the murderous rampages of death squads in that nation and throughout Central America as no other slaying had, although hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras before and during the 1980s by paramilitary formations usually led by graduates of the U.S.'s School of the Americas and covertly funded by the same nation's Central Intelligence Agency.

Graduates of the Pentagon's School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia (now the equally euphemistic Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) include the man responsible for ordering Romero's killing, the late Roberto D'Aubuisson; Efrain Rios Montt, head of the military junta in Guatemala in 1982-1983 which perpetrated some of the worst atrocities in the nation's bloodstained history; and Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, who was dismissed as chief of the Honduran military on June 25 of last year and led the coup against President Manuel Zelaya three days later.

After being appointed El Salvador's top ecclesiastic in 1977 Romero, before then considered a doctrinal if not a political conservative, spoke out forcefully against the abuses of the country's military and the deaths squads linked to it.

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Two months before he was killed he wrote to then U.S. President Jimmy Carter imploring him to desist from arming and training the Salvadoran army, particularly plans to "train three Salvadoran battalions in logistics, communications and intelligence," and criticizing the fact that three months before "a group of six Americans was in El Salvador...providing $200,000 in gas masks and flak jackets and teaching how to use them against demonstrators." [1]

His appeal was ignored.

On the last full day of his life Archbishop Romero celebrated mass at the Cathedral of San Salvador and ended his homily (a sermon ordinarily based on the day's Gospel reading) with impassioned words that were an indictment, plea and command:

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"I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, to the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God.

"No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuously, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!" [2]

The following evening he said mass at the small chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital. During the most solemn segment of the Catholic service, the liturgy of the Eucharist, the officiating priest consecrates and elevates in turn the communion wafer and wine.

As he lifts first the host, then the chalice, he utters an account of Jesus at the Last Supper:

"Before he was given up to death, a death he freely accepted, he took bread and gave you thanks. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it; this is my body which will be given up for you.

"When the supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said:

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"Take this, all of you, and drink from it; this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me."

It was while Romero recited the last words that a shot from an M-16 assault rifle pierced his heart, leaving him to bleed to death in front of the altar, his blood mingling with the spilled communion wine.

Thirty years later no one has ever been convicted of, no one has ever been charged with, his murder.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
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