Take Action to Denounce Political Killings in El Salvador
Government Officials Fail to Investigate New Wave of Politically Motivated Assassinations
Just six months before the 2009 municipal and legislative elections in El Salvador, political violence is heating up. Since March 2006 when Alex Flores Montoya and Mercedes Peñate de Montoya, two well-known FMLN leaders, were found dead in the municipality of Coatepeque, at least 23 leaders of the social movement and FMLN party have been murdered (see FESPAD chart in Spanish here). 2008 is a pre-electoral year and thus has been particularly violent for organized sectors of the population. Such political violence doesn’t contribute to the democratic electoral process that Salvadoran people desire; rather, it creates a climate of fear that threatens the upcoming elections.
On June 26, student activist Ángel Martínez Cerón, coordinator of the January 24 Revolutionary Socialist Student Bloc, was killed in the city of Santa Ana. Then on July 2 Holman Riva, an employee of the FMLN’s municipal government in the municipality of Ilopango, was killed along with his nephew. Most recently, 27 year-old Rafaela Hernández Delgado, whose husband is an FMLN member of the municipal government of San Pablo Tacachico, was shot dead in a bus. San Pablo is the same town in which FMLN deputy Gerson Martinez' security guard was shot to death three months ago.
Back in January of this year, in one of the most high-profile of such cases, the mayor of Alegría Wilber Funes was killed alongside municipal employee Zulma Rivera. The young, popular mayor had planned to run for reelection as a member of the FMLN party in 2009. Such killings could threaten support for the FMLN in the 2009 elections in several municipalities as people become afraid to campaign for the leftist party or support the social movement because of the concerns about personal security. In reference to the several murders that have taken place this pre-electoral year, FMLN deputy Benito Lara recently stated that “here we have various cases that remain unresolved, unclear, and it is difficult for us to accept the theory that these are merely cases of common crime.” For more information check out the recent CISPES update “Political Violence Increases in El Salvador.”
On top of this, Salvadorans also fear repercussions coming from the US government should the FMLN win. Back in 2004 – the last time there were presidential elections – several US officials made declarations denouncing the FMLN, including Rep. Tom Tancredo who threatened to introduce legislation to halt remittances sent to El Salvador if the FMLN were to win. Already this year US officials (including deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who visited El Salvador in June) have declared that the US government won’t work with governments who have “terrorist ties”, a clear reference to the right-wing media campaign connecting the FMLN to the Colombian FARC rebels. Like the fear caused by political violence, such declarations could affect the opinion of Salvadoran people preparing to vote in the 2009 elections.
In the context of this escalating violence and intervention, CISPES joins the Salvadoran social movement in calling for international solidarity to support an electoral process free of both US intervention and political violence.
1. Sign onto CISPES People’s Pledge to Defend the Right to Free & Fair Elections in El Salvador and accompany the Salvadoran people by standing in solidarity with them during their struggle for REAL democracy. Go to www.cispes.org/pledge2009
2. Contact Felix Garrid Safie, Attorney General of El Salvador, by fax at 011(503) 2528-6095or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him to respect El Salvador’s democratic process by carrying out a serious investigation of these political murders. See below for sample letter.
30 de Julio de 2008
Señor Fiscal General de la Republica Felix Garrid Safie
Fax (011 503) 2528-6095
Estimado Señor Fiscal General Felix Garrid Safie,
Le escribo con suma preocupación por el alarmante incremento de asesinatos motivados políticamente que han ocurrido en El Salvador durante este año pre-electoral de 2008. En los últimos dos años, la represión política contra los sectores organizados ha alcanzado niveles muy altos. En los últimos años han habido un sin numero de arrestos ilegales, desapariciones, asesinatos de activistas del movimiento social y miembros y líderes del partido FMLN.
El caso mas conocido de todos estos asesinatos es el del alcalde del FMLN Wilmer Funes, en la municipalidad de Alegría, Usulután, quien fue asesinado junto a la empleada municipal Zulma Rivera. La investigación de este caso continua sin ser resulto al igual que la gran mayoría de asesinatos motivados políticamente que viene ocurriendo desde el 2006.
Mas recientemente, Ángel Martínez Cerón, estudiante y activista, fue asesinato el pasado Junio 26 en la ciudad de Santa Ana, de forma similar. Martínez Cerón, coordinador del Bloque Estudiantil Socialista Revolucionario 24 de Enero, fue balaceado ocho veces antes que sus asesinos le asestaran el tiro de gracia en la cabeza.
Este proceder es similar a las acciones paramilitares del gobierno que ocurrieron durante el conflicto armado en El Salvador, las cuales todavía se encuentran el la impunidad. Esta impunidad en que se encuentran los casos de Funes y Martínez Cerón, entre otros, no contribuye a una estabilidad democrática, ni ayudan a que el proceso electoral promueva la estabilidad democrática tan deseada por la población de El Salvador. Le hacemos un urgente llamado a que investigue estos asesinatos motivados políticamente; un contexto libre de represión y violencia es necesario para que El Salvador pueda tener un proceso electoral transparente y democrático.
El garantizar la libertad de expresión, y particularmente la expresión política, es esencial en cualquier democracia. Ahora, en este año pre-electoral, es crítico que el gobierno de El Salvador demuestre su compromiso por la defensa del derecho de todas y todos los salvadoreños y su expresión política.
__________________ (state, country)
Dear Attorney General Felix Garrid Safie,
I am writing to you extremely concerned about the high number of political motivated assassinations that have been happening in El Salvador during this pre-electoral year of 2008. In the last couple of years there has been a high amount of political repression against Salvadoran organizers, such as illegal arrests, disappearances, and murders of leftist activists and FMLN leaders and members.
The most well known of these murders is the assassination of Wilber Funes, FMLN mayor of Alegria and his co-worker Zulma Rivera on January 9, 2008. This investigation is still unresolved as well as many others that have occurred since 2006.
More recently, student activist Ángel Martínez Cerón was killed in a similar fashion on June 26 in the city of Santa Ana. Martínez Cerón, coordinator of the January 24 Revolutionary Socialist Student Bloc, was shot eight times before his assassins delivered a final bullet to the head.
Such murders recall para- military practices that occurred during the armed conflict of El Salvador, which still remain in impunity. The impunity of the cases of Funes y Martínez Cerón, among others, do not contribute to the process of democratic stability desired by the population of El Salvador. We urge you to fully investigate these cases because in order to have a transparent democratic process in El Salvador, it must be free of political repression and violence.The guarantee of free expression, and particularly political expression, is essential in a democracy. Now, in this pre-electoral year, it is critical that the Salvadoran government demonstrate a commitment to defend the rights of all Salvadorans who seek to express themselves politically.