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US/El Salvador tensions highlighted over Oscar Romero mural

Ongoing El Salvador/United States Tensions Highlighted Over Oscar Romero Mural at San Salvador Airport

An exchange of tweets over a mural honoring Archbishop Oscar Romero at the international airport in El Salvador between a U.S. Congressman and the President of El Salvador has brought attention to ongoing tensions between the two countries.

Over the weekend, Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern tweeted that he was “deeply disturbed by reports that the mural dedicated to the memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero has been removed from the Salvadoran airport…

McGovern, from Massachusetts, said “When I travel to El Salvador, I always pause upon my arrival at the painting to reflect on all that Saint Romero means to me and millions of others.” He expressed concern about the artwork’s fate.

However, replies to McGovern’s tweet indicated the mural had not been removed entirely, but rather relocated a short distance to a new space within the airport terminal a few meters away.

Salvadoran President Defends Relocation

President Nayib Bukele responded directly to McGovern’s concerns, tweeting “You’re ‘deeply disturbed’ because we moved a painting a couple of meters to a nicer place in OUR AIRPORT? We are a sovereign nation, and we will display our artwork wherever we see fit. You are overstepping your bounds.

Bukele firmly stated El Salvador’s right to determine where the mural should be exhibited. In the space previously occupied by the Romero mural, a new sign has been installed that reads “Welcome to the land of surfing, of volcanoes and coffee.

Who Was Oscar Romero?

The mural in question depicts Oscar Romero, a Roman Catholic archbishop who was assassinated in 1980 after speaking out against human rights abuses during El Salvador’s civil war. Romero was later beatified by Pope Francis and is considered a religious martyr and social activist icon in El Salvador and beyond. The prominent mural honoring him has been displayed at the international airport since 2010.

The exchange highlights the broader tensions, with Bukele frequently pushing back against U.S. criticism of his security crackdown and other policies. While American officials raise concerns over democratic backsliding, Bukele sees his approach as necessary for restoring order in El Salvador after years of rampant gang violence. Bukele retains high popularity in El Salvador and recently won reelection by a landslide.

CA Staff

CA Staff