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Participant in 1980 assassination of Romero in El Salvador provides new details

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was gunned down while saying Mass in a San Salvador church in 1980.
Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero was gunned down while saying Mass in a San Salvador church in 1980. (AP)
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"Of course this is punishment," he said, gesturing to his "small mud house" in a village with rail-thin, sickly children, in an undisclosed country.

"Poverty! How would a man not become a guerrilla when he's watching his children die of hunger?" Saravia added. "I wouldn't hesitate three seconds."

On the day before Romero died, Saravia said his confederates were angered by the archbishop's Sunday homily. They thought only a communist would insult security forces with a Mass that said: "I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!"

The next day, Saravia told El Faro, retired major D'Aubuisson was on the phone. "Take care of it," D'Aubuisson said, and Saravia answered, "Okay, that's fine, Major. We'll do it."

He said he and his cohorts drove the assassin to the chapel. "You better shoot in the head because maybe he has a bulletproof vest," Amado Antonio Garay, the driver, later testified he heard Saravia say.

Romero was saying Mass: "so that we may give our body and blood to suffering and to pain, like Christ, to teach justice and peace to our people."

Saravia said he heard a single shot.

A few days later D'Aubuisson borrowed 1,000 Salvadoran colons, and Saravia gave the money to the assassin, who is "still out there somewhere," he told El Faro. He did not name the killer.

Worshipers at Romero's funeral were attacked with machine-gun fire and a bomb, which killed as many as 40 people and wounded 200.

"The crime became a milestone," said a U.N. Truth Commission report, "presaging the all-out war."

More than 75,000 people died in the 12-year civil war.

The Arena Party held the presidency for 20 years, until Funes won the 2009 elections on the FMLN ticket. Today, the country has one of the world's highest homicide rates.

"Saravia is not worried that one of his old buddies will kill him. The thing that worries [Saravia] most these days is that his neighbor will murder him to steal two cents," said Dada, the journalist. "And that is very possible. We were left with a culture of impunity that has consequences even today."

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