A political crisis of explosive proportion is looming this week in El Salvador
By U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities
A political crisis of explosive proportion is looming this week in El Salvador. In an apparent effort to decapitate the leadership of one wing of the social movement, Salvadoran national police detained and imprisoned leaders of the Association of Rural Communities for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES), a social organization which has worked since the 1980’s with over three hundred organized communities to advocate for their rights. Along with 10 community members, the leaders were placed in “preventative detention” for up to three months pending trial by special tribunal on charges of terrorism.
Facing rising community resistance and massive public demonstrations to proposed projects including water and health care privatization, hydroelectric dams and precious metals strip-mining, the rightwing ARENA government in October of 2006 approved decree #108, the “Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism”. The law re-writes several articles of the Salvadoran Penal Code, and creates several new categories of felonies.
This week the government apparently decided to use its newly minted legal instrument as a message to the social movement. Several miles from the city of Suchitoto, the Salvadoran civilian national police cut off a pick-up truck carrying CRIPDES leadership. The group was en route to a demonstration called to coincide with the visit of President Elias Antonio Saca and his cabinet to Suchitototo to promote a “Plan for the Decentralization of Public Services,” viewed by the communities as a step towards privatization of the public water system.
Forcibly removed from their vehicle and transported to the jail in Suchitoto, the detainees became the focus of a demonstration at the jail which called for their release. The Unit for Maintenance of Order cleared the area, resulting in multiple injuries from tear gas, rubber bullets, police beatings.
Ten people were additionally arrested and initial charges of “Creating a Public Disorder” were changed to “Acts of Terrorism” for all fourteen, despite the fact that video footage documents CRIPDES leaders’ apprehension by police miles from the scene of any public disturbance. At a July 6 preliminary legal hearing presiding Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz freed one of the group and directed the 13 others to be jailed pending trial under terrorism statutes. Possible prison terms for the charges range up to 60 years.
The Ombudsman for the Defense of Human Rights, Beatrice de Carrillo, promised to “undertake a preliminary investigation which will be continued. We understand that we are in a state that represses all forms of popular discontent.”
Bernardo Belloso of CRIPDES noted that “The trial is a political trial not based in law and is clearly an attempt on the part of ARENA to quiet any expression of discontent directed at their own unpopular policies.”
In Suchitoto, local priest Salomón Pérez stated “acts of repression like this that we’ve seen today will generate more violence.”
For further information contact :
U.S. – El Salvador Sister Cities Network
(514) 843-9880/(585) 360-1985 Sister Cities @gmail.com
CRIPDES in San Salvador: 011-503-2226-3717, or 011-503-2235-4005
1. Marcos Galvez
2. Jaqueline Carranza
3. Bernardo Belloso
By U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities SisterCities(at)gmail.com