Today in Latin America
Top Story — Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador for the Roman Catholic Church. This anniversary was remembered all over El Salvador as the passing of el Santo de America, as some call Romero.
Congregations of Catholics and evangelicals filled hundreds of churches across the country to honor Romero. “He was a national leader. A leader for all the people, and now is a symbol for everyone, not just Catholics but also for evangelicals― all Christians because he was someone who fought for the poor,” said a Salvadoran congregant observing the anniversary.
Others marched through the streets of San Salvador in remembrance of Romero and many smaller cities held festivals to honor him, including making large sand paintings in Ciudad Barrios, Romero’s birthplace.
While Romero did not affiliate himself directly with the guerilla movement Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), he has been adopted as a symbol of the left because of his embrace of liberation theology, which applies the teachings of Christ for the betterment of the poor.
Romero’s shift to the left after his appointment as archbishop made him a target of the conservative forces that eventually killed him. Romero was shot after giving the homily during a Mass in San Salvador. No one has ever been charged for the murder and a 1993 law enacted as part of the peace process grants amnesty to anyone involved in killings in the lead-up to and during the civil war.
The day before his assassination, Romero gave a Mass during which he said, “before completing an order to kill any man, the law of God must prevail that says: ‘thou shall not kill.’ No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law.”
There is a movement in El Salvador and elsewhere to officially canonize Romero as a Catholic Saint. The canonization of Mother Teresa for working for the poor of Kolkata is often cited as an example of why Romero also deserves sainthood.
Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes asked forgiveness in the name of the Salvadoran people for the assassination of the Archbishop, and said “we remember his death, but we honor his life.”
Funes is the first leftist President every to be elected in El Salvador and his party, the FMLN, evolved from the guerilla movement during the civil war.
The online Salvadoran newspaper El Faro recently published an exclusive interview with Capt. Rafael Saravia, who participated in the assassination, that reveals new details about the Romero’s killing. The article overloaded El Faro’s Web site, with 200,000 visitors on the first day it was released, according to Nicaragua’s El Confidential (cited by U.T. Knight Center for the Americas).
Just published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- Check out James Rodríguez’s photo essay, detailing the process and health hazards of artisanal gold mining — Will gold make you rich? Meet Nicaragua’s güiriseros.
- A rally for comprehensive immigration reform drew tens of thousands to Washington on Sunday.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- The United States Treasury Department issued sanctions Wednesday on 54 alleged members of Mexico’s Gulf cartel and Los Zetas, both organizations involved in drug trafficking and violence near the U.S-Mexico border.
- Mexico’s state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos awarded the Fluor corporation engineering, procurement and construction contracts for two low-sulfur gasoline projects worth $622 million.
- The Obama administration asked Congress to approve a $2.8 billion aid package to Haiti.
- Gloria Estefan announced she would spearhead a march in solidarity with Cuba’s “Ladies in White,” a group of women relatives of 73 dissidents who the Cuban government arrested in 2003 for allegedly conspiring with Washington against the state.
- Telecommunications company Trilogy urged earthquake-devastated Haiti to abandon its compromised landline telephone system and instead go 100 percent mobile.
- A United Nations human rights expert warned Wednesday that murders, kidnapping and sexual assaults against women and girls in El Salvador is still very pervasive.
- Private security contractors killed a Somali pirate in a shootout after he attempted to take over a Panama-flagged cargo ship.
- Fitch ratings upgraded Panama’s credit rating to a BBB-minus rating Tuesday, becoming the first agency to give the country the prized grade status.
- A car bomb killed at least six people in the Colombian port city Buenaventura. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
- The Bolivian army angered some conservative generals by adopting the motto “Fatherland or death, we shall overcome”, a slogan used during the Cuban revolution.
- Peru became the most dangerous country for pedestrians in 2009, according to the Peruvian paper El Comercio.
- The Organization of American States re-elected Chilean Jose Miguel Insulza to another five-year term as secretary-general of the organization.
- A Chinese mining company will buy an iron ore mine from Brazil’s Itaminas for $1.2 billion.
- Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called on the judicial system to move forward stalled human rights abuse cases at a speech marking the 34th anniversary of the 1973 military coup.
- Researchers at the University of California-Davis said they are developing a new test that may help Uruguayan rice farmers.
Image: Franco Folini @ Flickr.