July 25, 2021

The keys to impunity in the case of the homicide of Monsignor Romero

The keys to impunity in the case of the homicide of Monsignor Romero


Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero was assassinated more than 38 years ago and despite being the most famous personage in El Salvador and about to become on Sunday the first saint of the country, for his steadfast defense of human rights, his case continues immersed in impunity.

The keys of the little advance of Justice in the Romero case are diverse. The shadow of impunity surrounded the figure of the future saint from before his murder. According to the Report of the United Nations Truth Commission of 1993, Romero was the victim of death threats and a failed bomb attack, facts that were not investigated.

The document indicates that, after the homily of February 17, 1980, in which Blessed was opposed to the military aid of the US Government. to El Salvador, he was "subject to death threats", and in a private interview he said he felt "scared" and "preferred that his collaborators not accompany him in his exits to avoid unnecessary risks."

On March 10, 1980, a briefcase was found with a bomb "that did not blow up" near an altar in which he had officiated mass the previous day and which was built with 72 commercial dynamite firecrackers.

Fourteen days later, Romero was shot dead by a sniper from an extreme right death squad on the altar of the hospital chapel of cancer patients La Divina Providencia, in San Salvador.

With his death, impunity prevailed and the State became an accomplice, as reflected in a report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2000.

The document points to a series of "irregularities in the investigation," ranging from the lack of collection and preservation of evidence, given that investigators arrived at the scene of the crime almost four days later.

In the court file, medical tests, such as X-rays of Romero's chest, were not included, and the eye witnesses of the assassination were called "late".

The Salvadoran authorities also did not "seriously investigate the material and intellectual authors" of the murder and those involved; only Alvaro Saravia was tried and acquitted.

The popular voice, the Report of the Truth Commission and the IACHR indicated that the person responsible for giving the order to assassinate the bishop was Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, founder of the Republican Nationalist Alliance (Arena), a party of which he was a deputy and Presidential candidate.

To all the irregularities were added the intervention of the Supreme Court of Justice that rejected the testimony of Amado Antonio Garay, who led Saravia and the unknown sniper to the scene of the murder.

The judges of the Supreme Court also removed the authority from the attorney general of the time to request the extradition of Captain Saravia, who had fled to the United States. and currently unaccounted for.

To this chain of arbitrariness is added the disappearance of Pedro N. Martínez, who witnessed the murder and helped load the body of Romero, and the murder of Walter Antonio Álvarez, a member of the death squad who knew the identity of the person who shot.

"For those deliberate omissions on the part of the servants of Justice, it is undoubted that they were involved in some kind of conspiracy to cover up the murder from the beginning," he said in 1982, according to the IACHR, the first judge of the case and who had to flee the country after an attempt on his life.

The apparent coup de grace to the process was given by the Salvadoran Congress in 1993 with the issuance of an amnesty law that put a stop to all trials for war crimes, but a 2016 resolution of the Supreme Court gave it life again.

The Constitutional Chamber annulled this law in July 2016 and this allowed that in May of 2017 the investigating judge Rigoberto Chicas will order the reopening of the process.

According to members of the Tutela Legal "María Julia Hernández" organization, a plaintiff in the process, Judge Chicas will give a ruling on the course of the case after Romero's canonization.

"The voice of the voiceless", as Monsignor Romero is known, spoke out against violence and human rights violations in the years prior to the civil war (1980-1992), with which it became a benchmark in the defense of the most vulnerable.

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