San Salvador's Metropolitan Cathedral

In San Salvador, vets continue long tradition of occupying cathedral

By  Edgardo Ayala Catholic News Service
  • January 27, 2012

SAN SALVADOR - A group of former guerrillas has spent more than two weeks in San Salvador's Metropolitan Cathedral to demand better economic conditions, continuing a long tradition of the cathedral as a place to expose perceived injustices.

The veterans of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front began their occupation Jan. 12, demanding that President Mauricio Funes meets previously agreed-upon arrangements, such as the inclusion of parents of combatants killed in action into the pension system.

However, archdiocesan officials have said they must vacate the premises.

Veterans have occupied Metropolitan Cathedral several times since 1992, when peace accords ended 12 years of civil war. They claim some points of the accords have not been fulfilled.

During the civil war, leftist groups occupied the cathedral regularly to denounce human rights violations. It was among the few places where they could do so without being killed by security forces.

Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, murdered by death squads in March 1980, often denounced from the cathedral the murders committed by government forces during the civil war. He was buried in the cathedral's crypt.

"Many still believe that cathedral is the place where one can claim anything and you will be heard, because Archbishop Romero preached here ... that's very nice, very beautiful," Msgr. Jesus Delgado Acevedo, vicar general, told Catholic News Service.

But "on the other hand, it is a sacred place that must be respected," so the veterans must leave, he said.

On Jan. 16, Funes announced benefits for former combatants, such as a health program, the inclusion of parents of combatants killed in action into the pension system, and a $50 monthly pension to veterans over age 70.

"The pension should be for everyone, not just for those over 70 years old; we are not satisfied, and we will remain in the cathedral until we can reach an agreement," veteran Luis Ortega told CNS.

"The cathedral is a symbol of struggle, where the humble and the poor can be heard ... that's why we are here," Ortega said.

Approximately 75,000 people were killed in El Salvador's civil war. In 1992, the Farabundo rebels laid down their arms and eventually became part of a coalition government.

The government estimates 87 percent of the 25,000 former guerrillas live in poverty.

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