The Telesur news outlet is currently featuring an interactive piece covering the life, murder, legacy, and now beatification of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero.
(Beatification: a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person’s entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name.)
“Why did they kill him? Salvadorans called Romero the “Voice of the Voiceless”. He spoke out against the El Salvador dictatorship’s human rights violations, he opened the doors of the church to victims fleeing repression, and he repeatedly criticized the help the United States was providing the Salvadoran dictatorship. As a result, president Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) asked the Vatican to sanction Romero.”
Due to US complicity in his assassination, a leading US dissident intellectual, Dr. Noam Chomsky, has made it a goal to inform the largely unaware US public about Romero’s assassination and the general repression in US satellites in Latin America, a continuation of the repression and exploitation begun in Latin America by Europeans, the Spanish, in the late 1400s:
“In a Russian satellite, Stalinist satellite, say Czechoslovakia in the ’80s, critics, we call them dissidents, like Vaclav Havel, could be jailed. In an American satellite at the very same time, they just had their heads blown off.
It’s a radical difference. And that in fact is far more general, and it’s known to scholarship. So, if you take a look at the recent Cambridge History of the Cold War, there’s an article by John Coatsworth on Latin America, a well-known Latin Americanist. He points out that from the early sixties to the Soviet collapse in 1990, I’m quoting him now, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, executions of non-violent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. That included many religious martyrs, and also mass slaughter – which didn’t occur in the Soviet satellites – consistently supported, often initiated in Washington, generally supported by the responsible intellectuals … generally out of history.
It really is out of history. There happens to be a graphic illustration of it in my office… About fifteen years ago I was given a rather evocative painting by a Jesuit priest. The painting shows the angel of death, graphically presented, [and] Archbishop Romero – he’s called ‘The Voice of the People’, ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’- who was assassinated in 1980 while reading mass. Incidentally, [this was] shortly after he had sent a letter to president Carter, pleading with him not to send military aid to the junta because it would just be used to crush people struggling for their elementary human rights.
So, he’s at one end of the picture, and down below are six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, whose brains were blown out in November, 1989, a couple days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, by an elite Salvadoran battalion which already had killed thousands or tens of thousands of people, fresh from their- had just returned from the United States. They had just had renewed training at the John F. Kennedy school of special warfare in North Carolina.
They were acting under the specific command of the high command. That was published two years ago in the Spanish press. Yet to be published here. The high command was very close to the American embassy. Inconceivable they didn’t know.
Also in the same portrait there’s a picture of their housekeeper and her daughter. They had to be murdered, too, on orders of the high command, so there wouldn’t be any witnesses.
That’s the portrait. I keep it there kind of to remind myself of the real world, but it’s served another function. A lot of people come through the office, some of them look at it. I’ve noticed over the years that people from the United States, almost nobody has a clue what it is. From Latin America, almost everybody knows what it is. From Europe, it’s maybe ten percent.
If anything like that had happened in Czechoslovakia … everybody would know about the utter barbarism of the Stalinist monsters. Well, that’s not untypical, unfortunately … it’s pretty normal.
Take 9/11, obviously a horrendous atrocity, enormous historical significance. A standard cliche about it is it changed the world. … It was pretty awful. It could’ve been worse. In fact, it’s kind of useful to try a thought experiment. …A plane was downed in Pennsylvania by the passengers. Suppose it hadn’t been downed. Suppose it continued. It was apparently aiming at the White House. Suppose it had hit the White House, had killed the president, put into operation a plan, already established, to impose a military dictatorship in the country. Did that. Military dictatorship took over, dismantled the entire parliamentary system, very quickly killed some three to six thousand people, went on to torture about thirty thousand, established a major terrorist center in the United States, which was carrying out assassinations all over the world, overthrowing governments, helping install similar dictatorships …, brought in a group of economists who took over the economy and very quickly drove the American economy into one of the worst crises of its history.
Well, that would’ve been a lot worse than 9/11. And it happened, and you should all know that it happened, on 9/11. That’s what’s called, in Latin America, the first 9/11. 9/11/1973. That’s the coup in Chile which installed a grotesque dictatorship. Well, that’s considered of no significance. In fact, Henry Kissinger, one of the people directly responsible, informed his boss, Richard Nixon, right afterwards that it’s “of no historical significance.” It didn’t change the world. Nobody says that. It just changed reality.”