Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Romero, the Hunted


#BlessedRomero #MartyrOfMercy

A commentary by the Salvadoran writer Berne Ayala on the forensic aspects of the assassination of Blessed Oscar Romero offers new insights by which to analyze the “Odium Fidei” (hatred of the faith) of his murderers. Ayala, who had military and political membership in the Salvadoran Communist Party during the Salvadoran Civil War, examines the weapons used and the damage they caused to essentially conclude that Archbishop Romero was hunted like an animal by his persecutors, almost like a modern St. Sebastian—the saint who is usually depicted tied to a pole under a hail of arrows from persecutors who want to ensure he is dead.

Romero’s murderers, says Ayala, used “a gun and ammunition that are often used in the sport of hunting;” but not any type of hunting—say, for quail or guinea pig—but “big game” hunting, like polar bears. The goal in deploying such great firepower and destructive force was to deliver a decisive blow, for a surgical kill. Ayala refers to the rifle listed on the agenda for “Operation Pineapple” raided in possession of Roberto D’Aubuisson in 1980 which Ayala believes was used—the .257 Roberts. A fan on a sport hunters’ website boasts having killed a bear with such a rifle, while on another page, another sportsman recounts the ease with which he shot down a mule deer: “This buck took one shot from 200 yards entered behind shoulder at a pretty fair angle and exited his neck, went down so fast I thought he vaporized.”

Victims of the .257 Roberts.
When such a rifle was trained on Blessed Romero, it released, says Ayala, “a major impact force which can be over one hundred fifty pounds of energy at the muzzle” and doubled the weight of the prelate’s body over his back, thrusting him backwards to the ground. But far from being an uncontrolled explosion, it was an expertly managed application of power, Ayala writes: “the way a billiard player defines ahead of time the chain of impact, and the pockets where he wants to put this or that ball.” Thus, the shooter could “infer the angle of deviation of the bullet from its rotation and therefore its fragmentation” inside Romero’s thorax and its lodging in his chest, without leaving his body. The goal was to cause maximum internal damage to vital organs, severe internal bleeding and blood clotting “enough to kill a man in a few seconds.” Ayala assumes that the sniper “most likely studied the place and practiced shooting at fifty meters before arriving outside the chapel on that Monday March 24, 1980”.

While Ayala (author of “La Bitácora de Caín” [Cain’s Log]—a novel about the conspiracy to assassinate Archbishop Romero) merely comments on the logistical and operational implications of the crime, he also raises certain theological issues. To hunt a man down like an animal, holding the highest authority of the Church to such a beastly regard, is to deny Man the dignity of being a Son of God, which implies hatred of the faith that teaches otherwise. In contrast to  the other messy and brutal murders of the era, the surgical assassination of the despised, “polemical” Archbishop reflects a singular resolve to destroy him.

This crime required a special skill, a great calculating finesse, and was executed by an elite with abundant material and financial resources” concludes Ayala. “The secrecy that surrounds this case can only be maintained with the slobber of power.”

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