El Salvador Update: Prisoners Granted Conditional Liberty, Terrorism Trial and the Struggle for Free Speech and the Right to Organize Continue.
(As always, for full information check out www.elsalvadorsolidarity.org)
July 27th: This morning the 9 remaining prisoners originally captured last July 2nd in Suchitoto were granted conditional liberty, and left their respective jails. Marta Lorena Araujo Martínez, Rosa María Centeno Valle, Manuel Antonio Rodríguez Escalante, Héctor Antonio Ventura Vásquez, Vicente Vázquez Bacilio, Marta Yanira Méndez, Clemente Guevara Bátrez, Santos Noé Mancía Ramírez and Patricio Valladares Aquino were granted liberty by Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz, who had originally decreed their provisional detention weeks earler, and were assigned probation measures that prohibit them from leaving the country, changing their place of residence and that demands that they present themselves to the courthouse every 15 days. The charges against all 13 continue, and the rest of the 3 month period decreed by Judge Fuentes de Paz is expected to culminate with a trial under the anti-terrorism law.
This afternoon rural community members from Suchitoto and around the country came together with leaders of the Salvadoran social movement and the newly freed CRIPDES organizers to share testimony, and celebrate this partial victory.
Amid hugs and tears Marta Lorena Martinez, the President of CRIPDES took the microphone and thanked the representatives of social movement and solidarity organizations present for playing a role in winning this step toward definitive liberation. “We have been struggling alongside with you for the last 25 days, just in a different, darker, and harsher battlefield” said Martinez, giggling at her own reference to the Ilopango women’s prison. “And we owe our strength to each one of you who has spoken out for us.”
CRIPDES-CCR (Chalatenango Province) leader Isabel Membreño also spoke out to highlight the lessons from this victory. “In this most recent struggle, we have learned first and foremost who we are, that is, who we were, and who we continue to be: a strong, peaceful and revolutionary people who have proven to the world again that when we organize together we have the ability to defeat any strategy that our government chooses to employ against us.”
Lorena Martinez again described the Salvadoran government’s strategy: “First 1 year ago with the case of Belloso, and most recently this past July 2nd, our government has kicked-off a clear strategy of terror on the part of the State…. These most recent actions and arrests have taken the mask off of the government rhetoric, and are nothing more than a reflection of [President] Saca’s fear. He is under immense pressure from the elite of our country to protect the economic system, and for this reason he is afraid of our struggles to ensure that Suchitoto always has drinking water, to ensure that all communities have a legal right to land, and to create a country where every person fits, with justice and dignity. This time the Government has made a mistake, because every day we spent in jail was a day that the eyes of the world were fixed on his malicious intentions.”
With her eloquent words, Lorena also shows the way for our ongoing work in the “Citizens not Terrorists” campaign. It of course begins by celebrating this victory. Hugo Flores, a CORDES/CRIPDES leader said that: “[minister of security Rene] Figueroa wanted to keep you in jail for 3 months… He couldn’t even stand the strength of our national and international mobilization and pressure for 1 full month!” The release on conditional liberty of the prisoners is a real sign that the role of international solidarity and advocacy is important, and gives results! And that we need to keep it up to support the legal and political battle to get the charges against the Suchitoto 13 dropped. Those arrested on July 2nd still face jail time of up to 60 years, and an upcoming trial in a special terrorism/organized crime tribunal.
So our first objective is still to free the Suchitoto 13, supporting the legal actions and social and political mobilization of CRIPDES and the social movement.
Our second objective of our Citizens not Terrorist campaign must be to ensure the right of the Salvadoran people to dissent, free speech, protest and organization. This can come through supporting the efforts of the Salvadoran social movement to repeal the Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism, as well as through contact and dialogue with our own government and international institutions to ensure that the Peace Accords signed in 1992 are respected in El Salvador.
These new objectives should be taken into account in our upcoming actions: letters to Salvadoran Government officials, dear colleague letters, call-in days to the E.S. desk at the State Department, and in our discourse on the public stage. The country of El Salvador goes on vacation for the 1st week of August, giving us a little bit of time to again assess and re-orient our campaign, and turn up the heat to support our compañeros and compañeras, brothers and sisters.
At the time this update was posted, Lorena, Rosa, Haydee and Manuel were dancing with their families and 150 or so community leaders and organizers, celebrating this partial victory, all the while reminding each other that “La Lucha Continua…” The Struggle Continues.