Three decades after Romero's death, Salvadorans seek justice

(Photo: Office for the Canonization Cause of Óscar Arnulfo Romero of the San Salvador Archdiocese)Oscar Romero

Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated 33 years ago, but his memory continues.

Government thugs shot Romero as he celebrated Mass in a private chapel in El Salvador.

Romero was an outspoken critic of government oppression, often using his broadcasted Sunday homily to list government abuses.

His commitment to justice made him a hero and this week, people around the world commemorated his life with ecumenical services and memorial Masses throughout the world.

On Tuesday in Silver Spring, Md., day laborers and domestic workers as CASA de Maryland, celebrated with a visit from Romero biographer Maria Lopez Vigil.

Vigil shared her personal experiences with Romero, read from her book Oscar Romero: Memories in Mosaic and also answered questions about his life.

"Some [of the workers] cried," said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland. "Some of them were very emotional. Monsignor Romero was not just a religious figure, but like a father."

Many of the workers at CASA de Maryland are political refugees from El Salvador, and Torres said they still identify with his mission.

"Right here, in the United States, they are fighting for justice, fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, fighting for their families," he said. "He was an inspirational person who also fought for justice and peace."

CASA de Maryland is a community organization that helps Central American refugees in the United States. As part of their resettlement program, they help refugees find day labor in fields like construction, housekeeping and moving.

"Archbishop Romero's mission was also one of hope, of Good News," Marie Dennis, co-President of Pax Christi International, preached at the annual memorial service in London, England on March 28.

"He had encountered the Gospel in living color as he accompanied communities who were impoverished and brutally violated and he was evangelized by those experiences."

As of January 2012, more than 8,300 Salvadorans had left the country or sought asylum.

After Romero's 1980 death, El Salvador entered into a decade of what the Defense & Foreign Affairs Handbook called the 'longest American-supported counter-insurgency campaign since the Vietnam War."

In those first 10 years, more than 70,000 people were killed – more than half are presumably by government death squads like the one that killed Romero.

The current president, Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena was elected in 2009 in elections widely regarded as free and fair, though human rights abuses persist.

The government in El Salvador has been accused of extended pretrial detention, inadequate enforcement of labor laws and impunity for many perpetrators of violence and abuse.

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