San Salvador. January 11, 2023.
During the early hours of Wednesday, January 11, agents of the Attorney General Prosecutor's Office and the National Civil Police of El Salvador arrested Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García and Pedro Antonio Rivas, members of the Santa Marta community, a repopulated community made up of exiles and ex-combatants of the civil war, located in the municipality of Victoria, department of Cabañas.
In a simultaneous operation, carried out on the same day and time, in the municipality of Guacotecti, Cabañas, state agents also detained Teodoro Antonio Pacheco, executive director of the Association of Economic and Social Development - ADES Santa Marta-, and Saúl Agustín Rivas, legal adviser of the above-mentioned community organization.
All these people are accused of committing a murder during the civil war (1980-1992) and of illicit associations. This last offense relates the case to the narrative of the current government’s “state of exception” - which involves the suspension of various constitutional rights-, but in this case, it should not apply because those charged have no relationships with gangs.
In view of these events, the undersigned organizations express the following:
1. Our full support, recognition and solidarity with the Santa Marta Community and ADES who are now facing attempts to smear, discredit and intimidate with dubious legal proceedings against their members and representatives. Santa Marta is an exemplary community that has achieved enormous social development, like no other rural population in the country. ADES has contributed enormously to the development of the country, especially in environmental protection in areas such as the fight against metallic mining.
2. We are not opposed to investigating crimes committed during the civil war. In fact, several of our organizations have fought during the last three decades for the truth to emerge, for the restitution for victims, and for the meaningful application of justice. However, the actions against the members of Santa Marta and ADES do not seem like a genuine judicial action, rather, it appears to be an act of persecution and political revenge in line with the current governments’ strategies aimed at undermining community and civil society organizations. In this case, attacks against the staff of DES could be related to the intentions of the current government to reopen mining projects in the country.
3. The charges against members of Santa Marta and ADES clearly demonstrate the double standards of this regime in the face of crimes committed during the civil war and show its selective application of justice. In fact, the current government refuses to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity committed by the Armed Forces and right-wing paramilitary groups, including the massacres perpetrated in Santa Marta and surrounding communities, by troops from the Sensuntepeque Military Detachment No2, led by the recently deceased Colonel Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez.
4. This case also confirms the absurd logic of criminalizing the victims instead of prosecuting the perpetrators. The Santa Marta community is a victim of massacres and displacement suffered during the war, but the State did not respond for 30 years to their demands for justice and has now opted to prosecute five of its members. This system treats victims as perpetrators and perpetrators as victims, thus a clear example of "reversed justice."
Therefore, in the face of such egregious abuse, we demand that the legal proceedings against the members of Santa Marta and ADES be transparent and respect human rights, especially due to the serious doubts generated by the lack of judicial independence and the rule of law by current judicial institutions. We also demand that the process be conducted under normal legal processes and not under the provisions of the current “state of emergency” and that the detainees be released to wait for their trial in the community.
We also demand that the government stop discrediting, stigmatizing, and persecuting organized communities and their organizations. We also ask the International Community to be attentive to what is happening in the country to make statements of support on behalf of the Santa Marta community and ADES and support the demands of the organizations whose sole purpose is to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life and the integral development of the Salvadoran population, especially of the most vulnerable sectors.
Alianza Centroamericana contra la Minería (ACAFREMIN)
Aliados Internacionales contra la Minería en El Salvador
Alianza contra la Privatización del Agua
Bloque de Resistencia y Rebeldía Popular
Coordinadora Salvadoreña de Movimientos Populares
Foro Nacional de Salud
Foro del Agua
Mesa Nacional contra la Minería Metálica
Mesa por la Soberanía Alimentaria
Mesa por el Derecho a Defender Derechos Humanos
Mesa Permanente para la Gestión de Riesgos (MPGR)
Movimiento Ecofeminista de El Salvador
Movimiento de Trabajadores/as Despedidos/as (MTD)
Movimiento de ONGs para el Desarrollo Solidario (MODES).
Movimiento Universitario de Pensamiento Crítico
Plataforma de Seguridad Ciudadana