In this sense, Lazo’s painting is symbolic of the questions asked by millions of Salvadorans: Will Obama acknowledge – and apologize for – his country’s role in training, funding and politically backing the Salvadoran governments responsible for the death of Romero and more than 80,000 other, lesser-known Salvadorans? Will he follow the steps of Salvadoran President Funes, who mentioned Romero while initiating a process of formal forgiveness after being elected, like Obama, two years ago?
On the 31st anniversary of the assassination of Romero by U.S.-trained paramilitary death squad operatives, Salvadorans want to know if Obama will do his part to end the spirit of impunity that many here feel is at the heart of the generalized brutality that makes their country one of the most violent countries in the world.
“Monseñor Romero is the maximum symbol of impunity in El Salvador,” said Ricardo Vaquerano, editor in chief of the popular El Faro online newspaper. “Obama’s visit (to Romero’s tomb) is an important symbol because it creates spaces and perhaps sends the message that the United States believes that justice is possible in El Salvador,” he said, adding, “but symbols are not enough.”