Romero’s Struggle For Social Justice Continues in El Salvador
Posted by uscsjp on March 26, 2007
March 24th marked the 27th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the tenacious defender of El Salvador’s poor and marginalized majority who was gunned down by an operative of El Salvador’s U.S.-backed military while saying Mass. Romero had predicted his own death just days earlier, but he also foresaw the powerful effect that his martyrdom would have, famously stating that, “If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” Indeed, Romero’s example still inspires Salvadorans – and countless others around the world – in their ongoing struggle against injustice and inequality.
Archbishop Romero’s life was among the 75,000 that were lost during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, a conflict he recognized as having its roots in “the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery” of the oppressed. Tragically, these same social structures that led to the civil war– mass poverty, inequality and exploitation – remain largely intact even 15 years after the war’s end and the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992. According to the Washington Office on Latin America, a D.C.-based policy and advocacy group, “almost fifty percent of the population [remains] under the poverty line. Poverty [and] inequality rates still persist at levels comparable to the pre-war era.”
Similarly consistent over the past 27 years has been the role of the United States in maintaining poverty and inequality in El Salvador. As they did in 1980, these structures benefit the United States today by enabling foreign ownership of land and natural resources and the exploitation of a cheap, abundant supply of labor. During El Salvador’s civil war, the United States government used the guise of fighting communism to justify its support for ruthless military regimes that protected these economic interests. Today, the instruments used to perpetuate such conditions are more subtle: “Free trade” agreements, the privatization and comodification of public goods and services, and the extraction of natural resources through mining and other corporate activity.
In the face of such policies, Romero’s demand for justice continues to be echoed, just as he predicted it would be. Student activists, religious leaders, union organizers and the leftist party have continued working to build a new El Salvador despite the efforts of their own government, as well as that of the United States, to maintain the status quo in El Salvador and silence those who will not acquiesce. Just as the U.S. was complicit in Archbishop Romero’s murder – along with those of thousands of other civilians killed by the Salvadoran military throughout the war – today our government trains and funds a Salvadoran security apparatus that fails to meet human rights standards, violates the country’s 1992 Peace Accords, and is used by the state to carry out politically-motivated repression against the Salvadoran people. (continued)