El Salvador: Protestors & Movement Leaders Charged with Terrorism

On July 2 the Salvadoran police violently attacked a peaceful protest against water privatization and arrested 14 people. President Saca was scheduled to announce water “decentralization” – the first step in the privatization process – in the town of Suchitoto.

UPDATE: The 14 detainees and CRIPDES leaders were tried to on Saturday in a Special Tribunal for Acts of Terrorism. Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz dismissed the charges for 1 detainee, and decreed "Preventative Prison" for 3 months for the other 13, maintaining the terrorism charges and allowing the prosecutors to collect more evidence. Our action is required now, more than ever! Go here for live updates from US-El Salvador Sister-Cities

On July 2 the Salvadoran police violently attacked a peaceful protest against water privatization and arrested 14 people. President Saca was scheduled to announce water “decentralization” – the first step in the privatization process – in the town of Suchitoto.

A number of campesino, rural community organizations, women’s groups, and others organized a peaceful protest. The police attacked the protestors around the police station, on the roads, and even chased people into rural communities. Police pulled four movement leaders out of a vehicle kilometers away from the protest and arrested them. They attacked other protestors with rubber bullets and tear gas. In total the police arrested 14 people; another 25 people were injured with rubber bullets, 18 suffered serious effects of tear gas, 2 were hospitalized, and an undetermined number were beaten by police officers. For more information, see June 2 CISPES update.

Today people learned that those arrested will probably be charged under the new repressive legislation enacted in the fall to attack social movement organizing, either the anti-terrorism law or organized crime law or potentially both.

The social movement in El Salvador has organized a unified response to the police violence. Over 60 social movement organizations signed onto a powerful statement calling for the immediate release of those arrested and for the Salvadoran government to respect the constitution and therefore the freedom of speech and the right to protest (that statement is online here.) The social movement is calling on international solidarity to send letters and faxes demanding the release of the arrested protest participants and community leaders.

Take Action! (contact information has been updated)

1. Educate yourself about the situation (US El Salvador Sister Cities has prepared a timeline of events that you can find here.)

2. Send four international faxes or emails (sample letter below).

3. Contact media that will publicize these events. Contact CISPES or Sister Cities to get telephone interviews and English-Spanish translation for Salvadoran activists who either witnessed the events in Suchitoto or who have been involved in the organizing against water privatization. Contact: krista@cispes.orgThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it , 212-465-8115 x204 or sistercities@gmail.comThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it , or (585) 360-1985.

Your action is critical to helping defend the right to organize and to showing solidarity with those who are struggling to keep water accessible and public in El Salvador!

Sample letter to e-mail or fax to President Saca and Minister of Security Rene Figueroa

Please make your voice heard!

We are asking for e-mails, faxes, or phone calls to express concern about the growing repression of protest in El Salvador and the violent arbitrary arrests and to demand respect for the physical and moral integrity of the prisoners and their immediate release. Please direct your correspondence to:

All faxes begin with 011 (international code) and then 503 (the El Salvador country code) 

Excelentísimo Sr. Elías Antonio Saca, Presidente de El Salvador:
Telephone (011- 503) 2248-9000.
Fax (011 503) 2243-9947
Email at this website:

Lic. Felix Garrid Safie, Fiscal General de la república de El Salvador (Attorney General of El Salvador)
Telephone (country code 503) 2249-8412 / (503) 2249-8749

Fax: (011 503) 2528-6096
fgsafie@fgr.gob.svThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Dr. Agustín García Calderón,: Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (President of the Supreme Court of El Salvador)
Telephone : (011 503) 2231-8300, (503) 2271-8888.
Fax: (011 503) 2243-9930, (503) 22437857.

Charles L. Glazer, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador
Tel: (011 503) 2278-4444
Fax: (011 503) 2278-6011


Sample Letter (Spanish):

4 de julio, 2007

(Title and Name)

Le escribo para expresar mi grave preocupación por las recientes acciones de represión realizadas en contra de la población rural en el Municipio de Suchitoto, así como la captura violenta y arbitraria de líderes de las comunidades.

La desmedida reacción policial se produjo contra la población en manifestación pacífica contra la privatización del agua, que no es otra cosa que la expresión legítima de descontento social ante las políticas anti-populares. Este tipo de acción represiva evidencia la violación de derechos humanos y amenazas a la libertad de organización y expresión. Los golpes, capturas, cateos, persecución y sobrevuelo de helicópteros traen a la memoria los momentos más difíciles para la población rural durante el conflicto armado, y veo con alarma este retroceso en el proceso de construcción de la democracia iniciado con los acuerdos de paz.

A la vez quiero denunciar la captura violenta de 14 personas incluyendo líderes de las comunidades y la organización no-gubernamental, CRIPDES, entre ellos Marta Lorena Araujo, Rosa María Centeno, María Haydee Chicas, y Manuel Antonio Rodríguez. Exijo para ellos el respeto a su integridad física y moral, y el proceso justo de ley que lleve a su inmediata liberación. Tambien me preocupa mucho que el gobierno pueda acusar a las y los participantes en una manifestación pacifica de terrorismo y crimen organizado – le urjo a retirar estas acusaciones.

Por último quiero expresar mi solidaridad con las comunidades rurales y con CRIPDES en su labor a favor del desarrollo social y económico del país, un trabajo que he visto importante para la construcción de paz y democracia. Rechazo cualquier alegación directa o indirecta para vincular a CRIPDES con actividades terroristas, o con el caso de Mario Belloso y los sucesos del 5 de julio del 2006


(your name, affiliation)


Translation (send the Spanish version, though)

July 4, 2007

(Title and Name)

I am writing to express my grave concern about the recent actions of repression carried out against the rural population in the Municipality of Suchitoto, as well as the violent and arbitrary capture of community leaders.

The disproportionate police reaction against the population came in response to a non violent protest against the privatization of water, a legitimate expression of social discontent toward policies that hurt the people. This type of repressive action gives evidence of the violation of human rights and threats to the freedom of organization and expression. Beatings, arrests, searches, persecution and helicopter fly-overs bring to memory the most difficult moments for the rural population during the past armed conflict, and I am alarmed by this step backwards in the process of building democracy that was proposed with the signing of the peace accords.

As well I want to denounce the violent arrests of 14 people including leaders from the communities and the non-governmental organization, CRIPDES, among them Marta Lorena Araujo, Rosa María Centeno, María Haydee Chicas, and Manuel Antonio Rodríguez. I ask that you respect their physical and moral integrity, and follow the just process of law that leads to their immediate release. It is also of extreme concern that the government might charge peaceful protestors with terrorism and organized crime – I urge you to drop all those charges.

Finally, I want to express my solidarity with the rural communities and with CRIPDES in their work for the social and economic development of the country, which I have seen to be very important for the construction of lasting peace and democracy. I reject any direct or indirect allegations that try to link CRIPDES with terrorist activities, or with the case of Mario Belloso and the events of July 5, 2006.


(your name, affiliation)