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Massive march protests against arrest of Salvadoran activists

by Daniel Santos |
July 11, 2007
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San Salvador, El Salvador - About 20,000 people marched in San Salvador on Saturday, July 7 protesting against the arrest and detention of 13 political activists in Suchitoto, a town in El Salvador’s rural department of Cuzcatlán.

The marchers departed from the El Salvador del Mundo monument in San Salvador, protesting against the illegal detention of the activists under the charge of ‘terrorism’ under a recently-approved ‘anti-terrorism’ law.

Four of the 13 arrested activists are leaders of the Association of Rural Communities for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES), an organization with a long history of organizing poor people in El Salvador’s countryside to fight for justice. They were held on July 2 by the National Police while they were peacefully protesting the Suchitoto visit of El Salvador’s President Elías Antonio Saca. Saca planned a trip to the communities in the area on the eve of the approval of a plan to privatize water service there.

The National Police agents’ violent intervention ended up in a chaotic situation with numerous people arrested, injured and captured. The police used pepper gas and repression to disperse the peaceful protesters, who were shouting slogans against the government’s intention to privatize water.

This Saturday the protesters marched to the location where the activists are still under illegal arrest. Protesters said the fact that activists were detained and charged with ‘terrorism’ for peacefully protesting shows that human rights are constantly violated and disrespected in El Salvador.

Other recent attacks on political activists also point to an increase in repression against the left and the growing popular movements. For example, street vendors protesting against government policies were also recently attacked by the police and then charged with ‘terrorism.’

In another well-known case, the elderly parents of Monjarás Manzanares, a long-time radio announcer known as “Mariposa” on the FMLN’s Radio Venceremos, were crudely tortured and assassinated at their house in Suchitoto last year. Actions like this point to the continued existence of illegal right-wing death squads linked to the government, with the goal of eliminating the opposition. Such death squads operated with impunity during El Salvador’s civil war that ended in 1992.

That this massive march was organized on such short notice shows the power the social movement has to mobilize people. They say the protests are sure to continue until the activists are released.