Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Repression in El Salvador - make a call for a transparent investigation

(Forwarded from U.S. - El Salvador Sisiter Cities)

Many of you have followed news of the violent and repressive events that happened last week in El Salvador, events that are being called the worst violation of human rights in El Salvador since the signing of the Peace Accords. We ask you to take action:

Read the update below for the facts of what happened on July 5 and the following days.

Call the American congresspeople who represent you. Ask them to contact Salvadoran President Tony Saca's government and call for an independent and transparent investigation into the events of July 5. Your congresspeople's contact information is immediately accessible to you on the Contacting the Congress website <>. If you are Canadian, your MP's contact info is immediately accessible to you by postal code at <>.

Without a fair, transparent investigation, it is possible that the whole truth about the shooting last Wednesday will never be known. What is clear is that the aftermath of the violence gives the government justification for a dramatic escalation of violence against the social movement. ... Such an investigation, however, is even more unlikely given U.S. intervention into the case. U.S. Ambassador Douglas Barclay gave a rare interview to the press on Saturday in which he repeated Saca's line of calling this a "terrorist act" and implying that the FMLN was behind the shootings. He then suggested that the U.S. could "help" in the investigation through FBI assistance. (from the CISPES update below--read on for more.)

Thanks very much for making those phone calls.

In solidarity,
Emily Carpenter
for the US-ES Sister Cities network and Human Rights Work Commission


Dangerous Repercussions of July 5 Violence in El Salvador
Jailed students released, but harsh threats by Saca Administration, U.S. Embassy continue

July 13, 2006

It's been just over a week since a student protest in San Salvador resulted in violent police repression and two police deaths. The violence, which erupted during a student protest against bus fare hikes, also led to the police occupation of El Salvador's National University (UES) for days, the emergency evacuation of more than 700 people, the capture of between 20 to 30 students, and a university administrator being gravely injured. Over the weekend the students were released from jail due to lack of evidence, the police finally left the university, and on Tuesday a captured union leader was also released. However, the ramifications of last week's repression remain frightening. The Human Right's Office has called the violence instigated by the National Civilian Police (PNC) the "worst violation of human rights since the Peace Accords." And although there was indeed a renegade within the protest that fired at police, social movement organizations, human rights groups, and student groups have all called the government's response an unjustified use of force that represents a serious setback to the 1992 Peace Accords.

Background – The events of July 5

On Wednesday, July 5th an impressive array of police – including riot police (UMO), an elite, specialized group of police (known as the GRP), and snipers on the rooftop of a nearby children's hospital – were stationed at the main entrance of the National University (UES) even before a student march arrived. The high school and university students were demanding reduced bus fare for students, elderly, and the differently-abled, a demand the students have been mobilizing around for at least two years. When the UMO violently apprehended two 15-year-old students (at least one of whom was later taken to the hospital because of the severe beatings) the other students responded by throwing rocks at the police. Police then began firing rubber bullets and tear gas, and advancing ominously towards the students. A participant in the protest pulled out an M-16 and fired at police. Two riot police died and nine more were injured. All students ran into the UES for cover.

Soon, police began firing real bullets from both the ground and from at least two artillery helicopters flying over the UES. A UES administrator was shot at from the air while inside a university office and remained hospitalized for a week because the bullet came so close to his heart. That afternoon, the government continued to militarize the surrounding streets of the UES, cordoning off entry and exit from the university and randomly rounding up students trying to evacuate the campus. At 10:00 that evening, the police violated the legally guaranteed autonomy of the National University by breaking the locks and occupying the campus. They remained inside for the next 4 days.

Government Response: Smear, Disinformation, and more Repression

Within a matter of minutes of the violence, ARENA public officials were blaming the FMLN party, long before any clarification of the incident or an initial investigation of the events was possible. "I formally accuse the FMLN of being behind these actions," said Saca on radio and TV stations shortly afterwards. "It is time Salvadorans realize that if the FMLN had won, there would be armed groups circulating the streets." All of the mainstream media joined Saca in accusing the protestors and the FMLN of attacking the PNC, the media and the paramedics. At a press conference held at noon that day, the government used false information to justify the use of force by police. Officials claimed that students had AK-47s and snipers within the UES, and they claimed that the FMLN had planned to the action to distract attention from an internal crisis.

Despite an understanding that the police would be accompanied at all times while on campus, the PNC broke into the university at 10:00 pm that Wednesday – where ARENA claimed there were weapons arsenals– and were not joined by university officials or Human Rights observers until 8:00 am the following morning. Simultaneously, about 30 police raided the offices of the Union Confederation of Salvadoran Workers (CSTS) in another alleged "search for weapons." Union leader Daniel Ermesto Morales was beaten and detained for illegal gun possession, although the only gun they found was registered to a private security officer on the premises. The police raid and pillage of the CSTS offices came in response to a press conference held there by social movement organizations on July 5th in which they denounced the government's repressive actions that morning. Initially, police refused to provide information about the whereabouts of Morales and the captured students. Morales was ultimately held for five days until a judge released him on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the police have arrested one man that they claim was giving cover to the shooter that fired the M-16, and have begun a massive manhunt for Mario Belloso Castillo, the supposed murderer of the two riot police. Because both men have been members of the FMLN, ARENA has launched a full-blown smear campaign claiming that the FMLN was behind the attacks and that it is a terrorist organization. The FMLN responded to the attacks on the party by condemning the use of violence in protests and pointing out that it cannot control the individual actions of the 100,000 party members.

However, while Belloso has indeed been identified in photos, only a thorough investigation can prove that he actually killed the two riot police. Last Thursday, the Human Right's Ombudswoman Beatrice de Carrillo declared that "the deaths appeared to be very exact sniper executions that hit one police officer in the head and the other in the heart, to kill. This indicates that there has been a specific will to provoke this outcome." She added that media footage of the shooter isn't proof that this person was the author of these executions, and that the government's only source of information – an anonymous informant – is insufficient.

Disputed Accounts, and More Fallout From the Violence

Authorities of the National University have challenged claims by the PNC that there were weapons found on the campus. PNC officials have also asserted that police helicopters did not shoot, despite witnesses, pictures and video footage to the contrary. They also deny claims that there were snipers at the nearby children's hospital despite equal proof, as well as claims that multiple air force planes flew over the university, in addition the helicopters. On Tuesday, University officials released photos showing police firing from helicopters.

In defiance of the judiciary, President Saca and Minister of the Interior Figueroa have stated they will appeal the release of the students, claiming that there is more than enough evidence to incriminate them, while the union leader from CSTS will be prosecuted for illegal firearms possession.

Most ominously, ARENA has repeated labeled all those involved in recent protests "terrorists" and used the justification of the violence to push the so-called "anti-terrorist" law, a draconian measure that would criminalize building occupations, street blockades, and other common popular protest tactics. The law is so outlandish that even allied right-wing parties refused to support it last Thursday, and the Assembly voted instead to create an ad hoc commission to further investigate the events of July 5. Still, the law may be presented again by ARENA in the coming weeks.

What's next for El Salvador?

Without a fair, transparent investigation, it is possible that the whole truth about the shooting last Wednesday will never be known. What is clear is that the aftermath of the violence gives the government justification for a dramatic escalation of violence against the social movement. Already the government is threatening to investigate student groups and others because they are presumably armed. Student and youth groups have denounced intimidation after their offices were ransacked by police. Auxiliary bishop Gregoria Rosa Chavez demanded to know the truth this past Monday, echoing the demand of many Salvadorans: a thorough, independent investigation.

Such an investigation, however, is even more unlikely given U.S. intervention into the case. U.S. Ambassador Douglas Barclay gave a rare interview to the press on Saturday in which he repeated Saca's line of calling this a "terrorist act" and implying that the FMLN was behind the shootings. He then suggested that the U.S. could "help" in the investigation through FBI assistance. This incident makes clear that the U.S. should not continue its training and support of Salvadoran police, or legitimize their actions through the presence of a "police professionalizing" academy – the ILEA – which coincidently graduated its first class at the end of June. As social movement leader, Santiago Flores said, "The government is sharpening its repressive tools as the only answer to continue with this exclusionary economic model and maintain power." Even though the mainstream media has concealed the original causes of the protest – the economic crisis that exists in El Salvador – it will certainly be the cause for more mobilizations.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Anti-Union Raids in El Salvador

forwarded from friends in the Salvadoran labor movement:


After yesterday’s violent acts outside the National University that took the lives of two anti-riot police and at least one student during a protest of increased bus fares, the Salvadoran government is utilizing this situation to once again express its anti-union position. The offices of the Union Confederation of Salvadoran Workers, CSTS, were assaulted by the police who entered the offices without a court order early Thursday morning and tortured CSTS Press Secretary a Daniel Ernesto Morales for three hours. They continually asked him, “Where are the weapons?” Daniel was kept for three hours kneeled against the wall while the agents ransacked the office and stole equipment, cameras and $2000 in cash, while hitting Daniel on the head and in the face. Afterwards, they arrested Daniel Ernesto based on the fact that there was a weapon in the office. The legally-registered gun was the property of a member of the private security guards’ union who had left it in the office for safe keeping. Union members visited the leader at noon on Thursday and said that he had suffered blows to his face. Daniel Ernesto Morales, CSTS union leader, arrested during the early morning hours of Thursday, July 6.

Daniel is a young union leader who was fired last year from Diana Enterprises, a business owned by the Salvadoran Minister of Environment, Hugo Barrera. Daniel and his union organization have a legal case pending against this business. Coinciding with the break in, yesterday (July 5) at 4 p.m. and in light of the violent acts that happened during the student march, members of different social and popular organizations held a press conference at the CSTS offices to denounce the level of repression against the union and popular movement. The CSTS and the Center for Labor Studies and Support (CEAL) have requested a hearing before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Guatemala City on July 19 to report to the Commission about the Salvadoran government’s systematic anti-union behavior. This request was prepared from the offices that were broken into today and this office was listed as a point of contact for any correspondence related to the process. Yesterday, in a special session of the Legislative Assembly’s Labor Commission, Salvadoran authorities were informed of the hearing. It seems very suspicious that of all of the social and union organizations that are within proximity of the National University, it was the CSTS that was broken into by the police. The police have argued that they broke into the offices to look for weapons near the National University. However, the CSTS offices are more than a kilometer from the university. CSTS leaders said that they filed a complaint with the Salvadoran Attorney General’s office for this break-in in which the police robbed and ransacked the offices and arrested a union member. They are proceeding to notify the Inter-American Human Rights Commission about this as a precautionary measure for members of the CSTS.

Suggested Action! Write to President Elias Antonio Saca to put an end to the persecution of the union movement and to demand the immediate release of Daniel Ernesto Morales, CSTS Press Secretary. Model Letter: ELIAS ANTONIO SACAPresident of El Fax: +503 2243 7857/ 9930 With copy to:Beatrice Alamani de CarrilloFax: + 503 2222 0655

Violent Repression in El Salvador

July 5, 2006
Salvadoran Riot Police Attack Student Protestors, Threatening to Violate Constitution and Invade National University* Denounce Repression against Students and University Workers!*

Riot police have responded to what began as a peaceful student protest this morning with extreme violence and repression, and the most repressive of all of El Salvador’s police forces are currently (at 3:30 pm) surrounding the National University, including with attack helicopters and snipers.

The violence began this morning when riot police tried to impede a march of high school students protesting the dramatic increase in bus fare. At some point in the march near the National University, when police tried to detain protestors, fighting broke out. Police shot rubber bullets and tear gas at the students, and shots were fired in response. The police then dramatically escalated the repression, shooting into the university both from the ground and from the helicopters overhead. There are numerous reports of deaths and injuries. According to government accounts at least two police are dead and various people are injured, including one of the university administrators. There are also reports that the police killed up to three students, and that there are 10-20 students and university workers seriously injured inside, as well as more injured police outside. This violence comes just 3 days after the torture and murders of the parents of a long time FMLN activist and community organizer. (for more information see

At this moment the police are surrounding the National University and have closed down all entrances and exits. President Saca and Minister of the Interior Rene Figueroa are preparing to flagrantly violate the constitution of El Salvador by sending police in to occupy the campus, continue the violent repression, and continue with the mass round-ups. Take action to denounce this illegitimate use of force against a mostly unarmed student and university population.


1. Call President Saca and Minister of the Interior René Figueroa to denounce the attacks by the Salvadoran riot police and demand the police not invade the autonomous space of the National University campus. President Saca: 011-503-2248-9000. Rene Figueroa: 011-503-2233-7000, ask the operator for the extension “seguridad ciudadana.” You can call even if you speak very little Spanish. Simply say “Estoy preocupada/preocupado por los derechos humanos de los estudiantes. La policia no debe de invadir la universidad nacional. Cese la represión de inocentes y de los movimientos de oposición.”

2. Keep checking for more information and further requests for solidarity from Salvadoran students. Read CISPES Update, July 5 2006: Repression continues as parents of FMLN leader are brutally murdered in Suchitoto, and check for more information tomorrow.