El Salvador: arrest ordered in Oscar Romero killing

Days after the Catholic Church declared El Salvador's martyred Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero a saint, a judge in the Central American country issued an arrest order for a former military captain long suspected of ordering the killing of the religious leader. Judge Rigoberto Chicas issued the order Oct. 23 for national and international authorities to apprehend Alvaro Rafael Saravia, 78. He remains at large and is believed to be in hiding. Saravia had been arrested for the crime in 1987, but the case against him was dropped when El Salvador passed its amnesty law in 1993. The case was re-opened after El Salvador's Supreme Court struck down the amnesty law in 2016.

Romero was gunned down as he celebrated Mass in San Salvador on March 24, 1980. In a sermon the previous day, he had demanded that the country's soldiers "halt the repression," and stop killing civilians. The internal war that was then beginning would continue for another 12 years, claiming more than 70,000 civilian lives.

In 1993, a UN Truth Commission found that the Salvadoran military had committed 85% of the atrocities during the country's civil war, Then-ruling right-wing party ARENA responded by pushing through the amnesty law to shield those involved in the killings from persecution. ARENA was led by Roberto D'Aubuisson, who as an army major in the 1980s was suspected of organizing the country's notorious death squads, and of being the architect of the archbishop's assassination. D'Aubuisson died of cancer in 1992 and was never charged. (Catholic News ServiceReuters, Aleteia, Oct. 24; Catholic News Agency, Oct. 11)

D'Aubuisson, like others implicated in the Romero assassination and death-squad terror, was a graduate of the US Army's School of the Americas.

Photo via Catholic News Agency