San Salvador mayor’s decision to name street after death squad founder sparks outrage

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As El Salvador prepares to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s assassination next March, San Salvador mayor Norman Quijano has announced plans to rename a major thoroughfare in the capital city after Roberto d’Abuisson, the man identified by the 1993 UN Truth Commission as the intellectual author of the Archbishop’s infamous 1980 murder. D’Aubuisson, the founder of the ultra-conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, to which Mayor Quijano belongs, was also a leader of the Civil War-era death squads, and former US Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White once described him as a “pathological killer.”

On November 27th, Quijano announced that Calle San Antonio Abad, a street named for Saint Anthony the Abbot that runs near the University of El Salvador, would be named after the deceased ARENA leader. The country’s Human Rights Ombudsman objected that the decision may violate recommendations made by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission concerning Archbishop Romero’s assassination. The current Archbishop of San Salvador told the media, “we hope they reconsider it and return the name.” An international campaign on social media inspired by a similar movement in Chile against the naming of a street after former dictator Augusto Pinochet is gathering force with the slogan “No street will carry your name”, with protests planned in the coming days.

Some have dismissed the move as irrelevant, noting that Quijano is not seeking reelection in 2015 and the candidate from the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, Nayib Bukele, has a solid lead in the polls. “Nayib is winning, and when Nayib wins we will change [the name] too, and we will return its original name,” said FMLN legislator Santiago Flores.

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