FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The D’Aubuisson Memorial

by LAWRENCE REICHARD

On February 20 I flew from Boston to Panama City, and had a seven-hour layover in San Salvador. I was going to go to the beach, but then I saw a full-page ad for a Mass marking the 13th anniversary of the death of one of Latin America’s most notorious butchers, Roberto D’Aubuisson, killer of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

I couldn’t resist. Dogs have it right. As with all things, if you want to understand empire, you’ve got to sniff its excrement.

I was too late for the 8:00 am laying of flowers at the thug’s grave, but I thought I’d check it out anyway, see how many flowers had been left for the great man. While I waited for a bus into the city, a man by the name of Mauricio told me D’Aubuisson is best remembered for tossing babies in the air and shooting them while still in flight.

“In the area I’m from, he wiped out entire villages,” Mauricio said. “In some villages you would go in and there would be only women and children – the men were all killed.” Mauricio went on to lay the infamous El Mozote massacre at D’Aubuisson’s feet, but I’m not sure the historical record supports this.

D’Aubuisson was the kind of guy Mad Maddie Albright would love to invite to dinner, and seat next to John Negroponte.

A security guard at El Cementerio General de los Ilustres directed me to D’Aubuisson’s grave/mini-mausoleum. The guard told me 200 people had come to that morning’s laying of the flowers. In a no doubt rare display of socialist solidarity they must have all chipped in on flowers because I counted only seven bouquets and two wreaths.

I asked the guard whether Monsenor Romero happened to be buried in the same cemetery, and was told he was interred in nearby Vermeja Cemetery. My newfound guide’s face contorted in intense concentration. “It’s, it’s a mile and half!” he exclaimed with utmost certainty. I covered it by foot in five minutes, in 90-degree heat.

The difference between Los Ilustres and La Vermeja is apparent right off the bat. Romero is with his people, D’Aubuisson with his. Simple crosses versus mausoleums. And fittingly, all of Romero’s flowers are alive, all of D’Aubuisson’s dead. There’s a fountain of sorts behind the bust of Romero, water trickling down a wall, creating a pleasant sound, a sound of life. The bust of Romero almost looks like him – not quite, but close enough. Maybe it would help if someone were to remove the black plastic gag glasses. I was tempted to, but didn’t.

I wanted to go across town to see what was happening at the grave of former president Napoleon Duarte, the ultimate Reagan water boy, but there wasn’t time. When D’Aubuisson’s murderous ways became so well known that even Washington couldn’t handle him any longer, the U.S. worked semi-quietly behind the scenes to squeeze D’Aubuisson out and put Duarte in the president’s chair.

I made haste to the Mass.

And there they came. The Suburbans with tinted glass that used to send shivers up my spine in the 80s had been replaced by Landcruisers, Pathfinders and Explorers with clear glass. They were few in number, but watching them arrive at la Iglesia San Pablo reminded me of The Godfather, and of similar brushes with thugs – fascist, mafioso and otherwise – back in the 80s.

In the early 80s, at the albuergue 15,000 feet up the slopes of Popocatepetl, I met a U.S. special forces veteran who had been an advisor to Savak, the Shah of Iran’s secret police, famous for savage torture. In 1988 I shared an elevator in a five-star Guatemala City hotel with several U.S. military advisors. You know these guys aren’t down there handing out lollipops, but knowing that doesn’t prepare you for the chilling experience of sharing their elevator.

When the Mass started on time at 5 pm, only 13 people were present, and half of them were born after D’Aubuisson’s reign of terror. They trickled in after the show started, but they never topped 60. This with at least one full-page ad in at least one national newspaper.

The Mass was a strange, surreal affair. As I stepped into the relatively cool confines of la Iglesia San Pablo I picked up a copy of the program, and was shocked to see, prominently displayed in it, a quote from the late Archbishop Romero. According to El Salvador’s South Africa-style Truth Commission, D’Aubuisson authored the hit on Romero, which was carried out in the middle of Romero saying Mass to hundreds in the National Cathedral, a real up-yours to the Church.

Back in San Pablo, women wore tight jeans and tight, revealing sweaters, in 90-degree heat. Young women displayed bare midriffs. Men continuously checked their cell phones, bored. One man wore jean shorts and sandals. In a Roman Catholic Church in Central America.

But that didn’t stop the priest from taking advantage of a golden opportunity to suck up to money and power. “It is a great privilege to say mass for Major Roberto D’Aubuisson,” el padre said as he launched into a half-hour rambling monologue. Highlights:

“To kill is a sin. That is why we don’t believe in the death penalty.”

“We must fight poverty. But wait, we can’t fight poverty. The poor will always be with us. So we must fight misery. Yes, that’s it – we must fight misery.”

Whatever.

On the ride back to the airport the sun was setting over this small land that was devastated by U.S.-sponsored violence and now is kept afloat by remissions of paisanos washing dishes and cutting lawns in the belly of the beast. My driver said the country switched over to the greenback five or six years ago. “It’s been a disaster,” he said. “No one likes it. They did it without the consent of the people; they just rammed it through.” As when Europe switched to the Euro, prices shot up overnight, only worse, much worse. From one day to the next a bag of tomatoes went from 50 to 85 cents.

My driver said he worked from 5:30 am to 8 pm seven days a week. 101.5 hours per week. He told me hardly ever got to see his two kids. He said the upper crust was doing fine but everyone else was hurting. Minimum wage was fetching $5-6 a day. I paid $3.25 for a smoothie, a cookie and a brownie. More than half a day’s wages.

I asked the guy about the tight jeans and tight sweaters I had seen at the D’Aubuisson mass. He shook his head. “No,” he said, “that’s not normal. That’s a lack of respect, pure and simple. They’re just using the church, sucking up to it.” Then he paused, looked over at me, smiled and said, “But then that’s always been a two-way street.”

LAWRENCE REICHARD can be reached at: ziololo@yahoo.com

Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast, Maine, and can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
David Yearsley
Skepticism, Irony, and Doubt: Williams on Bach
May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail