Saint Oscar Romero: “Cease the Repression”

Saint Oscar Romero meeting with Pope Saint Paul VI.

Ten days ago the Catholic Church canonized Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.. For the ceremony,  Pope Francis wore the blood-stained liturgical garment Saint Oscar Romero was wearing when he was murdered, on March 24, 1980. The day before he was martyred, the Archbishop had delivered a sermon urging Salvadoran soldiers to disobey the orders of their superiors:

“I call on the men of the army and the bases of the National Guard, the police, the military bases.  Brothers, you are of our people.  You are killing your own peasant brothers.  The law of God —‘Thou Shall Not Kill’ — must prevail over an order to kill that a man may give  In the name of God and the name of this suffering people, whose cries rise up to heaven, I implore you, I beg of you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression”.

At the same time as the Canonization, an almost three thousand strong Caravan departed Honduras, headed for the United States. Men, women and children left, seeking peace and employment. Honduran cities and countryside have turned into killing fields of those who who aspire for a better life, of those who want to educate their children. Almost 40 years ago, Saint Romero asked that the repression against the people cease.  The killings continued and everything indicates that the repression will not cease.

As in other regions of Latin America, the United States and the rest of the world, inequality, poverty and injustice are the order of the day in the Northern triangle of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Meanwhile, as the pilgrims walked towards the southern border of the United States, the U.S. Secretary of State of the U.S. made a surprise visit to Panama and Mexico. In the case of Panama, he ordered President Juan Carlos Varela to halt his commercial negotiations with China.  To the Mexican President (in his last month in office) he demanded that he stop the Caravan, which has already entered Aztec territory. The Hondurans do not intend to enter the United States unlawfully.  The great majority seek refuge in the land of the “American Dream”.

Secretary Mike Pompeo knows very well the causes that motivated the Caravan. He well knows how and who caused the “humanitarian problems,” but all indications are that he has no idea how to control their effects. For more than 150 years the United States has intervened directly in the internal affairs of Mexico and Panama, as in all of Central America. The Caravan has its immediate origins in the 2009 coup d’etat in Honduras and the 2017 electoral fraud. The United States has spent more than a century and a half exploiting Honduras and her people. Whenever the people seek to establish order, Washington intervenes militarily and halts the development projects. Repression does not cease and the dead bodies pile up. The United States supplies the weapons, military training and finances for this barbarity. In the heart of Honduras lies the Northamerican military base of Palmarola, created to repress all Central American peoples, starting with Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. In the XXI century it has been turned into the central headquarters from where the Honduran people are repressed. Hondurans are also repressed in the United States.

The statistics show it well: thousands of peasants massacred, hundreds of Human Rights workers murdered and scores of journalists assassinated. Politicians in the United States call the victims of the massacres rapists. President Donald Trump ordered the United States-Mexico border to be closed and wants to mobilize the Northamerican army to detain what he demagogically calls “the invasion”.  Will President Trump turn the United States-Mexican border into rivers of blood?

Will Saint Oscar Romero be resurrected, to ask the United States to cease the repression on her side of the border? Washington and the financial centers of New York steal the riches of the Honduran people. The banana enterprises, the timber industry, the sugar basins, the mining companies and other uncountable  properties of Northamerican transnationals unceasingly extract Honduran wealth. The heavy military hand and corruption of the oligarchy caused the migration. Trump (and before him, Obama, Bush, Clinton and a long etcetera) shed tears before Northamerican workers, accusing the Central Americans of causing all their ills.

Saint Oscar Romero’s cry can be heard again: “Stop the repression!”


Marco A.  Gandásegui, Jr.

Professor of Sociology, University of Panama, CELA Research Associate

October 25, 2018


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