Twenty-six years after Archbishop Romero's assassination, one of the men involved in the plot has begun to speak to the press and to ask for forgiveness from the Catholic church. Alvaro Saravia gave an interview published today in El Nuevo Herald, where he acknowledges his role and says that he is writing a book where he will name others responsible in the assassination plot.
On September 3, 2004 a court in California issued a judgment holding Alvaro Saravia responsible for his role in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and ordered him to pay $10 million to the plaintiff, a relative of the Archbishop. Saravia had not attended the trial and did not put on a defense and had apparently already fled the US.
Excerpts from the El Nuevo Herald article follow:
BY GERARDO REYESEl
A former Salvadoran air force captain accused in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero has broken a 26-year silence to ask the Catholic Church for forgiveness and promises that he will reveal what he knows in a book.
Alvaro Saravia, in an exclusive interview with El Nuevo Herald, acknowledged that he played a role in the case and said the book will name others responsible for the murder of Romero, which helped fuel a 12-year war that left about 75,000 dead.
''They were the people most involved,'' said Saravia, who was a close aide to the late Roberto D'Aubuisson, an alleged death squad leader and ultrarightist who founded the Nationalist Republican Alliance, the party currently in power.
As to his request for forgiveness, ''that's a moral obligation I have, as a human being, to society, to the Church and myself,'' Saravia said in an interview recently in a Latin American country he asked not be identified for his personal security.
Saravia said he is willing to appear before the Archbishop of El Salvador, Msgr. Fernando Sáenz La Calle, to ask for forgiveness. Sáenz La Calle said the offer brought him surprise and joy.
''God always forgives when there is true repentance and a desire to make amends,'' he said in a phone interview. ``How good it is that someone who bears so heavy a load on his conscience can lay it down and find peace and God's friendship.''
''Someday I shall speak openly,'' [Saravia] said. ``If I want the pardon to be useful, I must tell the truth. I'm not going to tell lies, regardless of the consequences.''
Romero, who had become a persistent critic of the human rights abuses in El Salvador amid a war between government forces and leftist guerrillas, was shot to death by a sniper March 24, 1980, as he said Mass.
The Vatican has started the process of canonizing him as a saint.
Testimony collected by a Salvadoran Truth Commission created at war's end in 1992 and during the civil trial in California indicate that the murder was ordered by D'Aubuisson, who died of cancer in 1992.
''You must take into account that we were in a period of war . . . We may have been very confused in our actions, but we sincerely believed in what we were doing, and the face of the enemy was his,'' Saravia said, referring to Romero.
Saravia, 60, does not face any criminal charges. In El Salvador, he is protected by an amnesty granted after the peace accords of 1992.
Saravia said that although he did play a role in Romero's murder, his book will show that other influential and powerful people had much larger responsibilities.
''People will realize where my participation ended and how I was accused of things for which I was not responsible,'' he said. ``Of course, I'm the only one out in public, and the fleas always stick to the skinniest dog.''