Death Threats against Environmental Defenders in El Salvador — Take Action Today!

[Source – CISPES]

Our allies in the Cabañas environmental movement as well as the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining (the Mesa) are very concerned about a recent wave of death threats and crimes against members of El Salvador’s anti-mining movement as well as other violent crimes recently committed in Cabañas.  Similar crimes in 2009 that went uninvestigated, including robberies, kidnappings, and death threats against members of Radio Victoria, ADES, ASIC, and the CAC – all active organizations in Cabañas’ mining resistance –were a prelude to the murders of three activists, Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos. Please read more in-depth reports here and here.

Therefore, our allies are extremely concerned that the on-going state of impunity not only encourages the recent threats and crimes but could lead to more violence and murders in the near future.

Current situation:
•    In the middle of the night on January 11, a written death threat was pushed under the front door of community radio station Radio Victoria despite supposed 24-hour police security.  The authors claim to be an “extermination group” and offer large sums of money to the radio if they “stop making trouble,” including to stop reporting on mining.  If they don’t, the group says they will murder the radio’s three “loudest mouths,” Elvis Zavala, Pablo Ayala, and Manuel Navarrete.

•    On January 23, Mesa member and activist from MUFRAS-32 Hector Berríos received phone calls to his home and his cell phone from an unidentified person who claimed to have been hired to kill Hector or a member of his family.

•    This month, employees of CEICOM, a member organization of the Mesa, have been victims of two robberies in which a vehicle and important organizational documents were stolen.  In 2010, while traveling to regional anti-mining conferences, CEICOM employees were robbed on one occasion and kidnapped, robbed and left tied up on a separate occasion in Guatemala.

•    Two young people in Cabañas who were connected to the June 2009 murder of Marcelo Rivera have been killed. Darwin Serrano, who participated in the murder but was released from prison as a minor, was attacked and killed on December 20. Gerardo Abrego León, who testified in the trial that convicted and sentenced the material authors of Marcelo Rivera’s murder, was killed on January 2. Read more analysis here.

All of the death threats, kidnappings, robberies from 2009 remain in impunity.  While material authors have been found guilty and sentenced in the murder cases, there have been no investigations of the intellectual authors of the murders or the relationship of the crimes to the victims’ involvement in the anti-mining movement.

Our allies in El Salvador believe the negligence of El Salvador’s Office of the Attorney General, particularly the lack of investigation into who is ordering the attacks, has created a climate of impunity that empowers the structures carrying out this systematic campaign against the social movement to continue with their threats, violence, and potentially murders.

Please join us in taking action now to demand that the Attorney General properly investigate these crimes and that the government provide sufficient protection for members of the anti-mining movement.


1)    Send an email to Salvadoran Attorney General Romeo Barahona to demand an immediate and exhaustive investigation.

2)    Send an email to David Morales, Director of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Relations to demand specialized police protection for those being threatened.

If you speak Spanish, please also call Lic. Barahona to call for an exhastive investigation and Lic. Morales to call for adequate police protection today.

Call Script for Attorney General Barahona, Fiscal General de la República at 011-503-2230-6350 (direct number of his assistant, Hector Burgos)

Buenos días/tardes.  Mi nombre es_______________________ y llamo para expresar mi preocupación sobre las nuevas amenazas contra líderes sociales y la violencia en Cabañas.  Los casos de la Radio Victoria, Hector Berrios, y CEICOM son realmente asombrosos. Urge una investigación profunda sobre las amenazas de unos que se ha identificado como “un grupo de exterminio,” así que también que es necesario re-abrir los casos de Marcelo Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto y Ramiro Rivera para investigar vínculos entre estos caso, las nuevas amenazas y los asesinatos de Darwin Serrano y  Gerardo Abrego León. El hecho de que la violencia y amenazas anteriores quedaron en impunidad ha permitido que surgieran los nuevos casos de violencia.  Pido que el Fiscal General tome las medidas necesarias para asegurar justicia y protección para los afectados.

Call Script for David Morales, Director of Human Rights at Foreign Affairs Ministry, 011-503-2231-1143

Buenos días/tardes.  Mi nombre es_______________________ y llamo para expresar mi profunda preocupación sobre las amenazas al personal de la Radio Victoria. Por esta razón le pido que tome todas las medidas necesarias para cambiar la clasificación de las medidas cautelares para el personal de la Radio Victoria de Protección de Victimas a Protección de Personas Importantes.  También, pido que extiendan las medidas cautelares a Pablo Ayala, Manuel Navarrete y Elvis Zabala, quienes han sido identificados como blancos en las últimas amenazas. Gracias.

¡Que vivan los pueblos en resistencia!