Tomorrow, President Obama will visit the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador to pay his respects. Monseñor Romero, a champion of the poor and an advocate of peace, was shot to death on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass at a small chapel near his cathedral in San Salvador the day after giving a sermon in which he called for Salvadoran soldiers to stop the repression and to end the killing of their own people.
Oscar Romero's assassins were members of Salvadoran death squads, including two graduates of the School of the Americas. The 1993 United Nations Truth Commission report on El Salvador identified SOA graduate Major Roberto D'Aubuisson as the man who ordered the assassination. While we welcome President Obama's interest in visiting Archbishop Romero's tomb, a more fitting tribute to Romero's legacy would be the closure of the school that trained his murderers. President Obama's gesture rings hollow in the face of the continued U.S. support for repressive regimes such as Honduras that further U.S. interests and in the face of the continued funding for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (also known as the School of the Americas), the U.S. military training facility that has left a trail of blood and suffering throughout the Americas.
The Past is the Present
While Obama tries to portray a change in the dismal history of US relations towards Latin America, no where is it clearer than in neighboring Honduras that the past is the present. Last Friday, Honduran teacher Ilse Velasquez became the latest victim of the repression unleashed by the illegitimate regime of Porfirio Lobo. She was hurled unconscious onto the pavement, then hit by a car, after being struck in the head by one of the many tear gas canisters shot by police into the peaceful crowd. Ilse was the sister of Manfredo Velasquez, a student leader tortured and killed by the Honduran military in 1981 who was the subject of a landmark trial at the InterAmerican court that led to the founding of COFADEH and significantly improved the ability of victims of human rights violations to demand justice from their governments
The common denominator in all of these incidents is the leading role of SOA graduates. The repressive Lobo came to power via illegitimate elections following a coup led by two SOA graduates against President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. One of SOA's most notorious graduates, General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, was the head of the Honduran Armed Forces at the time of their murder of Manfredo Velasquez. He was also the founder of the brutal Battalion 3-16, whose tentacles continue to penetrate current Honduran repression. The person responsible for ordering police repression against peaceful protesters that led to Ilse's death on Friday is none other than the nephew of General Alvarez: Security Minister Oscar A. Martinez Guerrero, and a 1991 graduate of the SOA.
Stand with the People of the Americas
Join us in Washington, DC from April 4-11, 2011 for the Day of Action to Close the School of the Americas and to Resist U.S. Militarization. Click here for more information about the Days of Action.
Join the SOA Watch delegation to Honduras, from April 30 to May 9, so that we can bring our message of solidarity directly to the Honduras Resistance. Meet with Resistance leaders, human rights activists, journalists, workers and campesino organizations struggling to return democracy to their nation. Click here for more information about the delegation to Honduras.
Honduran Human Rights Defenders in Washington, DC - Contact your Member of Congress
A delegation of human rights defenders from Honduras (Bertha Oliva of COFADEH, Judge Guillermo Lopez, and Lucy Mendoza, staff of the Jesuit-sponsored ERIC Institute in Honduras) will be in Washington, DC tomorrow. Longtime SOA Watch friend Representative Jim McGovern is sponsoring a Congressional briefing for legislative aides on March 23rd at 10:30 a.m. in room 441 in the Cannon House Office Building. Please call the office of your Member of Congress today at and urge the foreign policy aide to attend the briefing. To find your senators' and representative's phone numbers, you may call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask for your senators' and/or representative's office.
Remember that telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the member of Congress. Ask to speak with the foreign policy aide who handles the issue of U.S. policies towards Honduras and the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
In the face of the ongoing SOA/ WHINSEC support for the repression in Honduras, Oscar Romero's last speech still rings true today:
"Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. ... In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression."
- Oscar Romero