Urgent Action: Threats and Violence Against Community Leaders in Cabañas, El Salvador

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

Community leaders from the region of Cabañas and Santa Marta have come under serious threat in the past months. Please help press Salvadoran authorities to make sure the threats and violence are stopped, and make sure Canadian officials, the Canadian public, and Canadian companies operating in the region are aware of the situation - and your concern.

  • On July 3rd, the body of Marcelo Rivera, a community leader from San Isidro, Cabañas, who had disappeared on June 18, 2009 was found, tortured and murdered. Rivera was an environmental activist, opposing mining in the region and denouncing electoral fraud in the municipality in January 2009. While four gang members are in custody and being charged with Rivera's murder, there has been no investigation into who was behind this crime and who might have hired the gang members to kill Rivera.
  • On July 27th, three journalists from Radio Victoria, who had been reporting on Marcelo's case, received intensifying death threats, telling them that they would “end up like Marcelo”.
  • On July 28th, Father Luis Quintanilla, the priest who works with the community of Santa Marta and advocates for human rights in the region, was attacked after doing a radio show on Radio Victoria. Father Luis narrowly escaped a kidnapping and assassination attempt.
  • On July 29th, a community leader in Santa Marta, the director of ADES (the Association for Economic and Social Development) and a number of social organizations in Cabañas all received death threats.
  • On August 7, Ramiro Rivera, the president of the community board of Nueva Trinidad, Cabañas, was shot 8 times in the back. Incredibly he was not killed and was reported to be in stable condition in hospital. The attack happened outside Rivera's home. Rivera has previously reported threats against his life that he said were based on his opposition to Pacific Rim's gold mining activities in Cabañas. One assailant is in custody and has been sentenced to 6 months in prison, but no investigation has been made into who was behind the attack, while the fact that Rivera had previously received death threats for his political work indicates that this was a politically motivated attack.

To learn more about these cases:

How can you act in solidarity with community members in Cabañas?

E-mail or fax the Attorney General's Office and the Police:

E-mail
alberto.uribe@fgr.gob.sv
violetapolanco@pnc.gob.sv
angel.manzano@pnc.gob.sv
radelgado@fgr.gob.sv
astor.escalante@fgr.gob.sv
fatima.guardado@fgr.gob.sv
elopez@fgr.gob.sv
joseph_4567@hotmail.com

Or fax
The National Attorney General's Office (503) 2523-7170
The Cabañas Departmental Attorney General's Office: (503) 2382-0208

Send the following e-mail/fax:

Como miembro de la comunidad internacional, quiero expresar mi profunda preocupación por la violencia y amenazas contra lideres sociales en Cabañas. Estoy muy preocupado por el secuestro y brutal asesinato de Gustavo Marcelo Rivera, líder comunitaria de la ciudad de San Isidro, por el intento de asesinato al Padre Luis Quintanilla, y tambien por las amenazas de muerte a periodistas de Radio Victoria y a varias organizaciones sociales en Cabañas.

Considero que existen suficientes evidencias para presumir que el asesinato de Marcelo Rivera, el intento del asesinato al Padre y las otras amenazas se realizaron por motivos políticos. Pero en las investigaciones de los crimenes ninguno antecedente politica está siendo considerado.

Por lo tanto como miembro de la comunidad internacional, hago un llamado para que la Fiscalía General de la República realice una investigación imparcial, exhaustiva y efectiva de todos estos casos, para dar con los autores intelectuales y materiales de estos horrendos crimenes, y tambien garantizar la protecion de los otros lideres sociales en la region.

De quedar la muerte de Marcelo y las amenazas a otros lideres en impunidad, se genera un clima de temor e incertidumbre para los demás líderes y activistas sociales, contrarrestando así los avances logrados en el proceso de democratización del país. Las nuevas amenazas que estan reportando cada dia demuestran la urgencia de una investigación profunda.

Agradezco de antemano sus gestiones para agilizar las investigaciones y espero que pronto se haga justicia en estos casos.

Atentamente,

(your name)

Translation of message:

As a member of the international community, I want to express my profound worry about the violence and threats toward community leaders in Cabañas. I am very worried about the kidnapping and brutal assassination of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera, activist and community leader from the community of San Isidro, about the assassination attempt against Father Luis Quintanilla, and the death threats to journalists at Radio Victoria and the various other social organizations in the region Cabañas.

I consider there to be sufficient evidence to assume that Marcelo Rivera's murder, the assassination attempt against the Priest and the other threats were committed for political motives. But none of the political antecedents are being considered in the investigation of the motives of these crimes.

Therefore as a member of the international community, I call on the Attorney General of the Republic’s Office to carry out impartial, exhaustive and effective investigations of all of these cases, to find the intellectual and material authors of this horrendous crimes, and also to guarantee the protection of other community leaders in the region.

Leaving Marcelo’s death and the threats to other leaders in impunity creates a climate of fear and uncertainty for the rest of the leaders and social activists, negating the advances achieved in the process of democratization in the country. The new threats that are reported every day demonstrate the urgency of a deep investigation.

Thank you in anticipation for you efforts to speed up the investigations and I hope that there will soon be justice in this case and reparations for Marcelo’s family.

Do you speak Spanish? Call the authorities in El Salvador to demand justice!

San Salvador Attorney General's Office
011-503- 2523-7171
or 011-503-2523-7282

Department of Cabañas Attorney General's Office
011-503-2382-0668
011-503-2382-0674

City of Victoria Police Department
011-503-2389-3009

Talking Points:

Hola, mi nombre es ___________, y estoy llamando para expresar mi profunda preocupación por la violencia y amenazas contra lideres sociales en Cabanas. Estoy muy preocupado por el secuestro y brutal asesinato de Gustavo Marcelo Rivera, por el intento de asesinato al Padre Luis Quintanilla, y tambien por las amenazas de muerte a periodistas de Radio Victoria y a varias organizaciones sociales en Cabañas.

Es necesario agilizar y profundizar las investigaciones y proteger a los testigos de todos estos casos.

Ruego al Fiscalía General de la Republica realizar una investigación imparcial, exhaustiva y efectiva para dar con los autores intelectuales y materiales de estos horrendos crimenes.

Gracias.

In Canada, contact your Member of Parliament

MPs’ addresses are all c/o:
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Canada

Dear (MP's name)

I am writing to you today to express my extreme concern over the current violence, intimidation, and death threats towards human rights defenders and community leaders in the region on Cabañas El Salvador.

This violence includes the kidnapping, torture and brutal assassination of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera--activist and community leader; the assassination attempt against Father Luis Quintanilla—human rights defender and catholic priest in the community; and the death threats to journalists at Radio Victoria and the various other social organizations in the region Cabañas.

I would like to also express my alarm over Pacific Rim’s—a Canadian mining company—actions not only in the region of Cabañas but also the legal actions that the company has taken against the Salvadoran government. Because the government has refused to allow Pacific Rim the extractive drilling rights to the El Dorado mine in Cabañas, the company is currently using its US subsidiary to sue the government of El Salvador for $77 million dollars under the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

For more information about the death of Marcelo Rivera and Pacific Rim’s actions in El Salvador please watch this video: http://www.jamiemoffett.com/.

As an elected representative, I urge you to:

  • Call on the Attorney General’s office of El Salvador to conduct a prompt, exhaustive, and independent investigate into the murder of anti-mining activist Marcelo Rivera and ongoing death threats received by other community leaders.
  • Conduct a comprehensive investigation into Pacific Rim’s activities in El Salvador, particularly in region of Cabañas and into the legitimacy of Pacific Rim’s law suit against the government of El Salvador.

Respectfully,

(Your name)

Send copies to:

Hon. Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Canada
Telephone: (613) 995-1851
Fax: (613) 992-6802
e-mail: CannoL@parl.gc.ca

Hon. Stockwell Day, P.C., M.P.
Minister of International Trade
Lester B. Pearson Building, Tower B
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0G2
Canada
Telephone: (613) 992-7332
Fax: (613) 995-1154
e-mail: Stockwell.Day@international.gc.ca

Claire A. Poulin
Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador
Centro Financiero Gigante
63 Av. Sur y Alameda Roosevelt, Local 6, Nivel Lobby II
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone: (503) 2279-4655
Fax: (503) 2279-0765
e-mail: ssal@international.gc.ca

His Excellency Rafael Angel Alfaro P.
Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of El Salvador
209 Kent Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1Z8
Canada
Tel: (613) 238-2939
Fax: (613) 238-6940
e-mail: embajada@elsalvador-ca.org

Kevin Sorenson, MP
Chair, Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Telephone: (613) 947-4608
Fax: (613) 947-4611
e-mail: SorenK@parl.gc.ca

John MacKay, MP
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Telephone: (613) 992-1447
Fax: (613) 992-8968
e-mail: MckayJ@parl.gc.ca

Hon. Bob Rae, MP
Liberal Party Foreign Affairs Critic
Telephone: (613) 992-5234
Fax: (613) 996-9607
e-mail: RaeB@parl.gc.ca

Francine Lalonde, MP
Bloc Québecois Foreign Affairs Critic
Telephone: (613) 995-6327
Fax: (613) 996-5173
e-mail: LalonF@parl.gc.ca

Paul Dewar, MP
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic
Telephone: (613) 996-5322
Fax: (613) 996-5323
e-mail: DewarP@parl.gc.ca