Thursday, May 6, 2010

Meeting with an ARENA congressman

One of the most surreal experiences of the whole trip was a meeting with a congressman - Mario Valiente - from the ARENA party (a RAIN a). The ARENA party was the creator of the death squads, the party of the repression of the people. The party in power and whose soldiers killed thousands of citizens. Amazingly, they remained in power for 20 years after the end of the civil war, but as we were told, they are good at building roads. A new president from the opposition FMLN party was elected last year and was inaugurated in June. ARENA remains the party in control of the Congress - or they were until some of their members broke off to create a new party. GANA. The former members of the ARENA party have crosses taped over their pictures in the party conference room where we met with the word "Traitor" typed on them. Pretty scary for a party that used to literally kill their adversaries.

Their perspective on Romero is very different. Valiente said it was a "bad idea" to kill Romero because it just created a martyr on the left. He also said it was "stupid" to kill the six Jesuit priests. It reflected badly on their country from an international perspective. Not that it was simply immoral. It was just bad policy.

He remembered Romero's radio speeches in which he ordered soldiers to stop killing the people, stop the repression. Valiente complained that he never told the guerrillas to stop killing too. (Although this all happened before the civil war). Romero was "not balanced." He respects Romero's memory, but "he was not a saint. He was a one-sided political priest." "Someone to look up to." The FMLN, party of the current president, and the political party of the former guerrillas, are "just using the 30th anniversary of Romero's death to finish creating their hero." Most FMLN, Valiente complained, are not even Christians. Why would they want a priest as their hero?

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