Natividad Mendez Ramos was the first Salvadoran soldier to die in the southern city of Najaf, Iraq, on April 4, 2004. He had joined the army at 15.
According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times, since her son's death, his mother, Herminia Ramos, 47, has become an outspoken opponent of her country's involvement in the Iraq war. After her son's death, the Salvadoran army refused to pay her son's pension, $200 a month. Ramos, a single mother of five, concluded that no other parent should have to bear the loss of a child to an unjust war and the indignity of being denied her fallen son's pension. Ramos signed her name to a letter demanding that El Salvador, the only Latin American country with troops still in Iraq, withdraw. She delivered the letter to the national legislature and President Tony Saca, a conservative and an ally of the Bush administration.
Ramos has become a symbol of the country's small antiwar movement. The protest letter states that El Salvador is "an accomplice to a military occupation that violates the fundamental laws of this country and a co-participant in widely denounced human rights violations."
After Ramos delivered the letter a group of army officials showed up at her home and told her that her letter would not prevent the deployment of another battalion to Iraq. Ramos told them, "I don't want those troops to go."
Bishop Medardo Gomez of the Lutheran Church of El Salvador described Herminia Ramos' courage. "She is a poor woman of few words whose pain led her to speak out. She's dared to stand up to the powerful, to our government, and above all, to the military."