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Thousands Give Final Salute to Salvarodan Strongman

February 22, 1992

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Thousands of mourners on Saturday commemorated Roberto D’Aubuisson, the charismatic rightist strongman and alleged progenitor of El Salvador’s death squads.

D’Aubuisson died Thursday at age 48 after a 10-month battle with cancer.

His followers escorted the coffin from a chapel in the Foreign Ministry where the body had lain in state to the Legislative Assembly building early Saturday. There, high officials led a special session in D’Aubuisson’s honor.

″Major Roberto D’Abuisson, with his strong personality, has crossed the threshold of history,″ President of Congress Roberto Angulo said at the eulogy. ″His memory will live forever in the heart of the Salvadoran people.″

Mourners filled the hall and spilled out the doorways of the building, chanting, ″Fatherland yes, communism no,″ as Angulo recounted how D’Aubuisson founded the rightist ARENA party in 1981 to combat the liberal leanings of the government and a leftist insurgency.

Later, thousands of people, many wearing ″I love D’Aubuisson″ T-shirts and carrying pictures of their dead leader, accompanied the body to a barrio church in the northeast of the city, where President Alfredo Cristiani attended a memorial mass.

After the service, D’Aubuisson’s flag-draped casket was taken to the Cemetery of the Illustrious, where he was buried with a 21-gun salute.

He was drummed out of the military in 1979 for being too conservative, but returned from exile to found the Nationalist Republican Alliance and lead the party to power in 1989, when candidate Cristiani won the presidency.

D’Aubuisson has been accused of being the intellectual author of death squads linked to the military, which kidnapped, tortured and killed tens of thousands of people suspected of leftist sympathies. He is also believed to have been responsible for the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a charge D’Aubuisson always denied.

In his last year of life, the once-wiry man was emaciated by cancer of the throat and tongue, which finally caused his heart to give out at a San Salvador hospital on Thursday.

He is survived by his second wife, Luz Maria, and four children from his first marriage.

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