[Cispes-DC] ALERT

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Take Action to Denounce Salvadoran Labor Minister’s Threats of Arrest on May 1.

Hello everyone:

I hope this message finds you well and hope to see you in DC for one of the many May 1 activities (I write again tonight or tomorrow with more info about that). For now, I want to share some alarming information from El Salvador, where the government has threatened to capture protesters who will march on Sunday for International Workers Day. Read below the press release for ways to take action including an organizational sign on letter with a quick turn-around of tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET.

For immediate release

During a press conference on April 28, El Salvador’s Minister of Labor, Rolando Castro, effectively criminalized any International Workers’ Day march planned for Sunday, May 1. As is customary in El Salvador and throughout Latin America, labor unions and other popular movement organizations had planned mass marches, this year calling for respect for the right to organize and nationalization of the pension system and denouncing illegal mass firings of public employees.

Echoing the Bukele administration’s recent attacks on critics as gang sympathizers, Castro stated that all those convening the marches “are family members, collaborators, financiers of the criminal gangs of El Salvador.” He went on to name high-profile leaders in the leftist FMLN party, Norma Guevara, Lorena Peña and Medardo González as conveners, and warned that no “legitimate” unions would be marching on Sunday, only people associated with criminal groups.

These are serious charges in a country where association with gangs carries heavy criminal penalties and in the current context of a State of Exception resulting in mass raids, arbitrary arrests, and multiple deaths reported in prisons in recent weeks.

Within hours, several major unions and labor federations formally called off their marches planned for Sunday morning, while others pledged to take to the streets as planned.

Minister of Labor, Rolando Castro.

The Popular Resistance and Rebellion Bloc reacted: “We reject and condemn the irresponsible accusations of the Minister of Labor against the working class that will march on May 1. We will hold Castro’s union mafiosos responsible for any aggression or acts of violence.”

Similarly, the Salvadoran Popular Movement Coordination stated, “Marching on May 1 is honoring the struggles and victories of the working class for a dignified life and for rights on the job. We condemn the declarations made by public officials that seek to criminalize an internationally recognized commemoration. We reissue our call to march on May 1, International Workers Day, against corruption, the criminalization of poverty and young people, illegal firings, precarious labor conditions and threats of repression against the working class.”

For decades, labor unions and popular movement organizations in El Salvador have held massive marches on May 1 drawing tens of thousands to the streets to uplift working-class priorities, from wages, working conditions, and union rights to broader issues such as the human right to water.

Several organizations convening marches this year also planned to denounce the government’s attacks on democracy, and the suspension of constitutional rights, including the right to due process, under the current State of Exception.

The State of Exception has resulted in the arrest of over 19,000 people in recent weeks with widespread denouncements of both arbitrary and politically motivated arrests under the pretext of President Bukele’s “War on Gangs,” with many unable to locate family members who have been arrested and lacking access to public institutions to which to appeal for their release.

Statement from the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES):

“What we heard from Minister Castro was the wholesale criminalization of the Salvadoran labor movement and any other popular movement organization that takes to the street to exercise their right to dissent. Given the State of Exception and the already prolonged detention of political prisoners in El Salvador, we are extremely worried about the safety and well-being of union members, popular movement leaders, and of members of the leftist FMLN party whom Castro has accused by name. We call on labor unions, human rights organizations, governments, and international institutions to condemn these dangerous accusations and to be vigilant of the march on Sunday.”


Join us in denouncing these threats by signing on to this international solidarity statement circulating for sign on closing tomorrow, Saturday, at 12 p.m. CT. It is a quick turn-around because we want to make sure the Salvadoran government knows, before Sunday, that the world is watching. Any additional denouncements that you can make or share are helpful (see several CISPES social media post below and here’s a Tweet from Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva). You’ll also see below a sign up form for emergency response, which you can find here.

The info about May 1 is below and also wanted to share the CISPES website post re: the joint statement denouncing the mass arbitrary arrests happening under the State of Exception that circulated last week and was signed by nearly 70 U.S. based immigrant and human rights, religious, and international solidarity organizations.

Yesterday, the Minister of Labor held a press conference accusing any and everyone convening a march for International Workers’ Day this Sunday of being «family members, collaborators, financiers of the criminal groups, of the gangs of El Salvador,» and reiterating that the country is under a State of Exception, in effect threatening their arrest.

Read CISPES’ release sent out to press this morning: Government threatens arrests of those who march on International Workers Day | CISPES: Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador

In addition to criminalizing the labor movement and the right to protest, within the context of mass arbitrary arrests and the already prolonged detention of political prisoners, the stage is clearly being set for politically motivated arrests (or worse) on Sunday. Here is a clip from Castro’s press conference and a thread from the Ministry of Labor’s official Twitter account here.

Unfortunately, these actions have already had a chilling effect and many unions have called off their participation in any march, planning to host rallies and participate in government-sanctioned events for «legitimate unions,» as Castro called them.

BUT many unions and popular organizations are STILL planning to march and will therefore be at greater risk of being targeted and they urgently need our international solidarity and vigilance. Will you join us in taking action by denouncing this alarming situation?

  1. Fill out our sign-up form to receive emergency alerts and developing information on how to take action in relation to Sunday’s marches in El Salvador!
  2. Let us know if you are part of a union or other group that would be able to issue a statement on this concerning situation, by replying to this email.
  3. Make your support visible for Salvadoran workers under threat on social media. Here are some recent CISPES posts that you can reshare: InstagramTwitterFacebook.

Thank you for making your support for the Salvadoran popular social movement heard during this urgent time of constant attacks, Yesenia!

En solidaridad,

– Yesenia Portillo, CISPES Program Director




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