Demand the Immediate Release of Political Prisoners in El Salvador!
The protestors who were arrested on July 2 in Suchitoto, El Salvador are now being tried under the new "anti-terrorism" law, a law passed with full praise from the United States government. This draconian law defines different forms of public protest as terrorism and sentences offenders up to 60 years in prison for such crimes as occupying a public building. For the second time this year, the law is now being used against the social movement in El Salvador, criminalizing acts that do not in any way constitute terrorism! Five of the prisoners on trial have now been temporarily released; the other 9 remain in "preventative detention" for a term of 3 months while the prosecution builds their terrorism case against all 13.
The Salvadoran community has expressed concern that the accusation and detainment of these 13 political prisoners represents a major step back from the 1992 Peace Accords. The social movement has taken great care to collaborate in monitoring the status of the case, the conditions of the prisoners, and to exert pressure on the government to release the prisoners. One of the greatest concerns is the conditions in which the prisoners are being held captive, particularly the women. They have been threatened by prison employees, denied the rights to receive visits and food from family members, and have failed to receive needed medical attention. For more information, see CISPES updates and the Sister Cities website.
The United States government has a responsibility to speak out against this, as the anti-terrorism law is targeting and criminalizing the social movement. Community leaders and non-violent protestors are not terrorists. If the United States government supported this law, they must maintain its integrity and apply it only to acts that actually constitute terrorism. This politicized use of the law renders the term terrorism meaningless and further proves that the label is only a tool of political manipulation.
Your action is critical in defending the right to organize and to showing solidarity with those who are struggling to keep water accessible and public in El Salvador (see below)!
1. Call the State Department and demand that the United States government hold the Salvadoran government accountable for these acts. Call Jeremy Cornforth at the U.S. State Department's El Salvador desk on Monday July 30, National Call-in Day for the Political Prisoners, at 202-647-3505. See below for sample script.
2. Contact your Congressional Representative to share your concern about this situation. Advise them that a Dear Colleague letter will soon be ready, demanding that Ambassador Glazer express concern to the Salvadoran government over the recent arrests, the "preventative detention," and the application of the anti-terrorism law. Ask them to sign on to this letter as soon as it is available. Call you Representative at the House switchboard, (202) 224-3121.
Background Information about Suchitoto Arrests
On July 2 the Salvadoran police and military violently attacked a peaceful protest against water privatization and arrested 14 people in the northern town of Suchitoto. 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.
Police pulled four movement leaders out of a vehicle kilometers away from the protest and arrested them. They also arrested people around the police station, on the roads, and even chased people into rural communities. 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. Edgar Mejia, whose wife Beatriz Nuila was arrested, stated this situation is "evidence that once more in this country we are traveling down a dangerous road of repression and human rights violations". For more information, see recent CISPES updates.
Call Script for El Salvador Desk at the U.S. State Department.
You can use the following "script" to talk to Mr. Cornforth. If at any point you get cut off, be sure to ask the final question – "will you call the ambassador and assure that he calls for the terrorism charges be dropped?"
1) I'm calling because I am very concerned about the July 2 arrests of the people protesting water privatization in Suchitoto, El Salvador.
2) The Salvadoran police violently captured community leaders – shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at close range – and local community members and is now charging them with terrorism.
3) The Salvadoran government's disproportionate reaction raises serious concerns about human rights and the freedom of organization and expression.
4) The U.S . government has publicly supported the Salvadoran government, including supporting the passage of the anti-terrorism law last September.
5) It is extremely important that the U.S. stand up for human rights everywhere and not let protest be criminalized in the name of a so-called fight against terrorism.
6) Will you call Ambassador Glazer and tell him to call for the terrorism charges to be dropped and the protestors to be freed?
For more information, see www.cispes.org or www.us-elsalvador-sisters.org
* Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities *