El Salvador: Water defenders denounce military presence in community

Image description: a crowd of people gather holding a banner and several posters calling for the release of the five environmental defenders from Santa Marta.


We have urgent news from our allies in Santa Marta, a community on the frontlines of El Salvador’s fight against gold mining and an inspiring stronghold of grassroots organizing and resistance for over four decades.

Last week, the son of Vidalina Morales, internationally recognized environmental defender and president of the Economic and Social Development Association of Santa Marta (ADES), was arbitrarily arrested while playing soccer in the neighborhood. Vidalina immediately denounced the arrest as an act of intimidation and thankfully, he was quickly released.

But yesterday [May 24], the community issued an international alert when they learned of a military deployment in the surrounding area.

Given the government’s use of “military enclosures” to surround communities, ostensibly to target gangs but in reality, providing pretext for broad abuses and mass arrests, the presence of armed forces has created a new wave of fear, signaling to the people that more arbitrary arrests could be made at any time.

We denounce the detention of Morales, the intimidation tactics being used against the people of Santa Marta, and the re-militarization of Salvadoran society.

Image description: Vidalina Morales, environmental defender and president of ADES, speaking into a microphone while holding a sign calling for the release of the five detained environmental defenders. She is beside people who are holding a similar sign.

UN Special Rapporteur calls for the release of community leaders from Santa Marta

A day before Vidalina’s son, Manuel Gámez Morales was arrested, Mary Lawlor, a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, tweeted a call for the release of five community leaders from Santa Marta, including the director of ADES, who were arrested in January on trumped-up charges, expressing concern regarding their ongoing detention.

Since January, CISPES has been part of a campaign with the International Allies against Mining in El Salvador to free the Santa Marta 5.

We are pushing Members of Congress to speak out against this political persecution – and your Rep needs to hear from you! Will you help us call for their release and for an end to U.S. support for militarized repression in El Salvador?

Click here to email your rep and senators today!


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