10 Prosecuted for murders of environmentalists

According to prosecutor’s hypothesis, none of the murders are linked to environmental activism against mining.

La Prensa Grafica
By Suchit Chavez
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Translation by SHARE staff

Original Article in Spanish

On April 10th, the Court of Specialized Sentencing of San Salvador began the trial against 10 people accused of involvement in five murders, including two environmentalists that occurred in 2009 in the small community of Trinidad, in the municipality of Sensuntepeque (Department of Cabañas).

The defendants, according to prosecutors, are supposedly close to two families in the conflict.

Most of the violent deaths occurred in December 2009. Within days of each other, Ramiro Rivera, Felicita Argueta and Dora Alicia Sorto were killed in different parts of the Trinidad community. Rivera and Sorto were identified at the time as activists against active mining projects in the area. Months earlier in the same area, two relatives of a man linked to mining: Horacio Menjivar and his wife, Esperanza Velasco were also killed.

The chief prosecutor of the Organized Crime Unit (UNICCO), Rodolfo Delgado said yesterday that following his investigation, prosecutors ruled the crimes were not related to the activity of the mining company.

According to Delgado, "these families had previous quarrels with each other." Activity for and against mining exacerbated
these alleged attacks, he said.

Delgado declined to specify what the prior arguments were about, or if they had ballistic tests that connected the cases. The prosecutor stated this was due to the fact that the trial was still ongoing. He added, however, that two witnesses gave statements indicating there was allegedly a history of problems between the families.

The killing of Marcelo Rivera, another environmentalist, occurred in June 2009 in another town in Cabañas, and was disconnected by the chief prosecutor to the case currently being processed in the Court of Specialized Sentencing. In September 2010, three people were sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of Rivera.