El Salvador. According to COUNTRYAAH, El Salvador has a population of 6.421 million (2018). The power measurement between the government and organized crime continued during the year. In June, members of one of the largest crime leagues (“maras”) fired a bus on the outskirts of the capital, San Salvador, and set fire to it, killing 14 people. The reason for the attack was said to be that the bus company in question refused to pay protection money to the league, which is increasingly acting according to common mafia methods. President Mauricio Funes, who was largely elected on a program with more humane law enforcement policies, in turn had to use increasingly violent methods, and critics said his methods now did not differ much from the harsh tactics followed by his representatives. The violence only escalated further. In September, the two largest crime leagues staged a 72-hour bus strike, which affected about half of all bus traffic in the country, in protest of the president. According to sources in the United States, the Salvadoran leagues consist of 70,000 members, and signs suggest that cooperation between the “maras” in Central America and the drug power in Mexico has increased. The number of murders per 100,000 population in El Salvador rose to 61 during the year.
President Fune’s tougher methods of law enforcement also aggravated the friction within his own party, the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional), where criticism was harsh on him for what was perceived as a general right-wing policy since he was elected in March of the previous year. However, some political points gained Funes in early October through his historic visit to Cuba, with which El Salvador reestablished diplomatic relations in connection with Fune’s takeover of power in 2009.
In October 2018, Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero was sanctified by the Pope. He was assassinated by officers at San Salvador Cathedral on March 24, 1980, when the country was a military dictatorship. The day before, in a heartbreaking sermon, he had called on the military to stop the repression in the country:
I would like to appeal, the special way, and the men of the army. And specifically, based on the National Guard, the policy, the barracks … Brothers, the son of our own people. They kill their own peasant brothers. And before an order to kill that of a man, to prevail the law of God that says: “Do not kill.” No soldier is mandatory and more important in order against Law of God. An immoral law, nobody has to obey it. It is time for them to regain their conscience, and to obey their conscience before the order of sin. The Church, the defense of the God, the Law of the God, the dignified human, the persona, after the remain silent before so much abomination. And the number of God, then, and the number of this long-suffering people, whose lamentations rise to heaven more and more tumultuous every day.
I would like to make a special call to the men of the army. Especially to the soldiers in the National Guard, the police, the barracks… Brothers, we are of the same people. You kill your own brothers, the peasants. But against an order given by a human being, God’s law has priority: “Do not kill.” No soldier has a duty to execute an order that is contrary to the law of God. An immoral law has no duty to challenge. The time has come to regain conscience. Follow conscience rather than the order of sin. The church that defends God’s law, God’s law, human dignity, man himself, we can no longer remain silent to all this injustice. In the name of God, in the name of this martyred people whose cries daily and ever more tumultuous rise to heaven, I beg you, in the name of God: stop oppression.
The day after, the dictatorship killed him. At his funeral, the military staged another massacre, killing about 100 on the square in front of and inside the cathedral. Over an 11-year period, the US-backed dictatorship killed about 75,000. The officer who issued the order for the murder of Romero was Roberto D’Aubuisson, who himself died of cancer in 1992. He founded the right-wing radical party ARENA, which is today the country’s second largest. (Salvadorans await justice in civil war killings as one of its first victims sainted, Guardian 14/10 2018)