In another sign of Óscar Romero’s status, El Salvador’s martyr bishop received what is increasingly an obligatory tribute from a visiting dignitary—this time, the rightwing president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, who stopped in the country for a brief visit.In his arrival address at the airport, Mr. Piñera—the first billionaire elected president of Chile—praised the “Bishop of the Poor.” Praising El Salvador’s and Chile’s common quests for independence and peace, he noted that some Salvadorans have garnered international acclaim. He singled out Archbishop Romero, whom he said, “worked for the defense of human rights and for the defense of peace.” He added that Romero is “beloved, admired and respected in Chile.”
Mr. Piñera is the latest visiting head of state to praise Romero. The most prominent head of state to do so was U.S. President Barack Obama, who visited Romero’s grave in March 2011. Before Mr. Obama, other Latin American leaders had similarly paid their respects at Romero’s Tomb, including Pres. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Pres. Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, and Pres. Rafael Correa of Ecuador.
Mr. Piñera is the first leader associated with the right to do so. It was reported that Pres. Vicente Fox of Mexico had sought to visit Romero’s grave during a state visit in the 1990s, but was discouraged by the conservative Salvadoran government of the era from doing so.