In El Salvador tonight, President Obama is visiting the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered almost exactly 31 years ago – the anniversary is March 24 – because of his opposition to the Salvadoran government that at the time was battling leftist rebels.
Romero is widely celebrated today as a hero of democracy, an irony given that the leftists he sympathized with would likely have entombed El Salvador in a Communist style dictatorship along the lines of Nicaragua and Cuba.
Romero himself does not appear to have been a Marxist, and his drift to the left and the “Liberation Theology” that was opposed by Rome at the time was likely due to his outrage at the killing perpetrated by the government and the right wing “death squads” who were fighting the insurgency.
Nevertheless, while his murder was an outrage, it was the direct result of his decision to become a part of the political struggle. In this contest, he chose the side hostile to the United States. Even Jimmy Carter knew enough to ignore a direct plea for Romero to cut off U.S. military aid to the Salvadoran government.
I’m not exactly sure what to make of Obama’s visit to the gravesite. Romero is currently in the process of being canonized, and it’s possible that given the Archbishop’s posthumous popularity – which avoids his complex history – it would have been impossible for Obama not to go.
But Obama by his own admission associated himself with a Lefty crowd and Marxist professors while at Occidental College at the time Romero was assassinated. Romero’s killing was a major rallying cry for the left and on campuses at the time, where affection was strong for left-wing Central American revolutionaries.
It’s impossible to think Obama did not get caught up in the liberal outrage at Carter’s and then Ronald Reagan’s efforts to defeat The Revolution, and it’s almost as hard to believe that tonight’s visit isn’t personally gratifying for the president.