Thursday, March 24, 2011

31st Anniversary of Romero's Death - corrected

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot and killed while saying Mass at the chapel of the Divina Providencia. Romero had spent the last two-plus years of his life as Archbishop working tirelessly to prevent the country from falling into open civil war.

The National Security Archive recently posted several declassified documents from the US government related to Romero's and his death as well as links to Alvaro Saravia's interview with Carlos Dada of El Faro where he lays out "How We Killed the Archbishop.”

Here are some of my posts from last year
When looking through some of the declassified information posted by the National Security Archive, I was surprised by something the Department of Defense wrote immediately after Romero's murder.
Impossible to place blame for this attack as both left and right could obtain goals by carrying it out. El Salvador now has it's Chamorro.
This document was written on March 25th and probably is very different from the one that must have come from Robert White, the US Ambassador to El Salvador at the time. The right had killed several priests in the late 1970s and had been primarily responsible for extrajudicial killings throughout the country. While the guerrillas were disappointed that Romero had not come out more strongly in support of the cause (instead denouncing the violence primarily being committed by the military), there just doesn't seem to be any reason for what would become the FMLN to have ordered his death. At best I can come up with is that it might have been in the FMLN interest to kill the Archbishop and make it look like the work of death squads so that public support continued to move in its favor.

The second sentence refers to Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the newspaper editor killed in Nicaragua upon the orders of Somoza in 1978. While his killing led to massive protests in the streets (similar to Romero's murder), we refer more to Chamorro's killing in some ways as the spark that caused "excluded" Nicaraguan elites to rally against Somoza. If the DoD was referring to the violence that was likely to erupt following Romero's murder, that's one thing but if they seriously thought that the elites were going to abandon the "civil-military" regime in office at the time because Romero was murdered, I'm not sure what he or she was thinking.

Then, take a look at Cable 8 entitled “Archbishop's Assassination: Peaceful Procession” from the Department of State - "There were no incidents of violence" and "no security forces in sight at the cathedral." Here is what no incidents of violence looked like.

The cable also said 10,000 while other reports place the number of mourners at 100,000.

Cable 8 refers to the movement of Romero's body from the basilica to the Cathedral on the 26th and not to the funeral Mass itself on which occurred on the 30th and is where the video footage comes from.
 (Thanks Tim)

And one last thing from Obama's visit to Romero's crypt, I kept getting chills every time I read about government sharpshooters being located around the National Cathedral. It came up several times in stories talking about all the security that was needed with Obama and Funes at the church. I kept thinking back to the sharpshooters firing upon those attending Romero's funeral in downtown San Salvador.


  1. One correction Mike. Cable 8 talks about a procession on March 26, 1980 when Romero's body was transferred to the the Cathedral. The funeral mass was on March 30 and that I believe is the date of the YouTube video you included in this post.

  2. Tim,

    Thanks. I corrected the dates and all. Kind of a big mistake.