I, Salvador

Think salvation

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: January 29, 2005

I, Salvador

The Salvadoran option. Think savior. Then think bloodthirsty dictators, military death squads, grisly kidnappings, rampant rape, torture and massacres, and scorched-earth policies.

Think Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, Guatemalan generals Efrain Rios Montt and Hector Gramajo, Salvadoran Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Salvadoran death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson.

While the Bush administration is purportedly looking into the Salvadoran option for Iraq, the best way to debate it is to put a face on this equation. Think Reagan/Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Otto Reich, Oliver North, Elliott Abrams, John Poindexter and John Negroponte, current U.S. ambassador to Iraq. (Why do all these names sound familiar?)

The Salvador option -- which was "covert" and largely illegal -- is actually a misnomer. It was the Central American option.

Here is a small number of victims of this celebrated U.S.-supported option. Virtually all were religious, human- or labor-rights activists and were killed either by the military or military-supported death squads.


Father Rutilio Grande, S.J. Murdered along with two Salvadorans, 3/12/77.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Assassinated on 3/24/80. (Alvaro Saravia was found complicit in his murder in a Fresno, Calif., courtroom.)

Teachers union activists Humberto and Guillermina Chavez, July 1980. Paco Calderon, September 1980.

Maryknoll nuns Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan. Murdered by national guardsmen, 12/2/80.

Dutch journalists Koos Koster, Hans ter Laag, Jan Kuiper and Joop Willemsen. Killed on 3/17/82.

Six prominent Jesuits at the Central America University, killed by the army, 11/16/89: Ignacio Ellacur?a, Segundo Montes, Amando L?pez, Joaqu?n L?pez y L?pez, Juan Ram?n Moreno, Ignacio Mart?n-Bar? and their two assistants, Elba and Celina Ramos.


Manfredo Vel?squez, 1981, Hans Madisson, 1982, and James "Guadelupe" Carney, 1983.


Ben Linder, Sergio Hern?ndez and Pablo Rosales. The three were killed by Contras on 4/28/87.


Father William Woods, Ann Kerndt and Dr. Michael Okada were killed in a 1976 "mysterious" plane crash.

Padre Hermogenes Lopez Coarchita. Murdered on 6/25/78.

Petrocinio Tum Menchu (1979), Vicente Tum Menchu (1980), Juana Tum Menchu (1981). These family members of Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu were all brutally killed.

Victims of the Spanish embassy fire, Guatemala City, 1/31/80 -- burned alive: Adolfo Molina Orantes, Gavina Mor?n Chupe, Edgar Rodolfo Negreros Straube, Eduardo C?ceres Lenhoff, Felipe Antonio Garc?a Rac, Francisco Chen Tecu, Francisco Tun Castro, Gaspar Vi Vi, Jaime Ru?z de Arbol, Jos? Angel Xon? G?mez, Juan Jos? Yos Gonz?lez, Juan Chic Hern?ndez, Juan L?pez Yac, Juan Tom?s Lux, Juan Us Chic, Leopoldo Pineda, Luis Antonio Ram?rez Paz, Luis Felipe S?enz Mart?nez, Mar?a Cristina Melgar, Mar?a Lucrecia Rivas de Anleu, Mar?a Teresa V?squez de Villa, Mar?a Pinula Lux, Mar?a Ram?rez Anay, Mar?a Ram?rez Anay, Maria Wilken de Barillas, Mateo L?pez Calvo, Mateo Sic Chen, Mateo Sis, Miriam Judith Rodr?guez Urrutia, Nora Adela Mildred Mena Aceituno, Regina Pol Cuy, Reyno Chiq, Salom?n Tavico Zapeta, Sonia Magaly Welchez V?ldez, Trinidad G?mez Hern?ndez, Vicente Mench? Perez, Victoriano G?mez Zacar?as.

Father Stanley Rother. Murdered on 7/28/81. (Rother was one of 10 priests murdered during 1980-1981, including Spanish priests Jose Maria Gran Cirera, Faustino Villanueva, Juan Alonoso Fernandez and Carlos Perez Alonso. U.S. missionary James Miller was murdered in 1982.

Hector Gomez Calito and Maria del Rosario Godoy de Cuevas -- founders of the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM) -- an organization formed to investigate the "disappearances of civilians" by the military. Killed in 1985.

Myrna Mack. Stabbed 27 times by an army officer, 9/11/90. Julio Quevedo Quezada, Catholic activist. Murdered in 1991.

Monse?or Juan Jos? Gerardi. Killed on 4/26/98, two days after releasing the Catholic Church's blistering report "Guatemala: Never Again." Seven witnesses were subsequently slain.

A wall of names that would memorialize all the victims of this Central American option -- which should include torture survivors -- would dwarf the Vietnam War memorial at least tenfold. But what are numbers? And what is several hundred billion dollars? Are we not now witnessing an illegal and immoral war in which the U.S. military intentionally does not count Iraqi deaths, much less identify them? (The U.S. military also secretly kidnaps, detains, tortures and flouts U.S. laws and international treaties -- then rewards or confirms those who design these policies.)

And this is the obscene option of dehumanization -- one that has never actually ended -- that this administration wants to emulate? No doubt, one day, ruthless dictators will speak of the need to exercise the Iraqi option.

Think salvation.


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