The new report highlights the full extent of human rights abuses under the Bukele administration, as well as evidence that the Bukele administration would like to bring back mining.
San Salvador and Washington, D.C. – On January 11, the Central American Alliance on Mining (ACAFREMIN), the Institute for Policy Studies, MiningWatch Canada, Pax Christi International, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the SHARE Foundation, the United Church of Canada, and the Washington Ethical Society co-released a new fact-finding report on the “State of Deception/ Estado de Decepción” in El Salvador . The report draws on interviews and careful analysis of evidence and materials from a fact-finding delegation to El Salvador sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies and the SHARE Foundation that took place October 15-20, 2023.
The report comes a month before the critical general elections in El Salvador on February 4, 2024, when voters will elect the president, vice president and all 60 deputies of the Legislative Assembly, all of whom will set major policy decisions for the next five years and thus have a critical impact on the state of the economy and the state of democracy in the country for many years to come.
The fact-finding report carefully examines the weak, politicized case against the five prominent water defenders known as the “Santa Marta 5,” and the politicized nature of the arrests of 17 prominent Salvadoran labor leaders. The report authors call on the government to drop all the charges against these community leaders and to release them, and call on other nations to hold the government accountable for these wrongful arrests and for human rights violations.
The new report also highlights the full extent of human rights abuses under the Bukele administration, as well as evidence that the Bukele administration would like to bring back mining, in part due to fallout from economic policy decisions such as overreliance on cryptocurrency.
This report was published a week after the January 4 release of a letter in Spanish and English co-signed by 185 respected academics and lawyers calling on the Bukele administration to drop all charges against and to immediately release the five prominent water defenders who were arrested exactly a year ago on January 11, 2023, and to release the 17 prominent labor leaders in El Salvador currently held on politically-motivated charges.
Key report findings include:
- The weakness and political nature of the case against the Santa Marta 5, and of arrests of 17 prominent Salvadoran labor leaders: The report highlights the urgency of calls to drop all charges against the 5 prominent water defenders who were arrested exactly a year ago on January 11, 2023 as part of a crusade to criminalize, persecute and demobilize the government’s opponents. The report details how the arrests lack evidence, lack due process of law, and are in violation of a 1992 amnesty. The “Santa Marta 5” have played a critical role in longstanding communal efforts to ensure that the historic country-wide mining ban in El Salvador continues to remain in effect, and in communal efforts to safeguard human rights and human dignity of vulnerable Salvadoran communities. After pressure from over two hundred prominent civil society, human rights, faith-based, and research organizations, the Bukele administration decided to release the five water defenders from jail in September 2023, but they remain under house arrest and the charges against them have yet to be dropped.
- The economic impact of Bukele’s policies and evidence that the Bukele administration would like to bring back mining: Thanks to an underperforming economy, in part due to its ill-advised embrace of Bitcoin, the Salvadoran government is under enormous pressure to find new revenues. The report offers evidence that to solve the crisis, the Bukele administration is pursuing plans to allow environmentally-destructive mining.
- The state of human rights in El Salvador: Ahead of a general election in February that holds major implications for democracy and the rule of law, Salvadorans are paying close attention both to the state of human rights in the country and the state of the economy. Meanwhile, Bukele has enacted dangerous policies that limit the independence of the judiciary, suspend civil liberties and the rule of law, and threaten human and civil rights, often under the guise of curbing gang activity. First-hand interviews with 19 organizations based in El Salvador reveal the full extent of these policies’ impact on communities’ daily lives and their capacity to thrive.
- Massive fear among ordinary communities in El Salvador due to the arbitrary nature of political arrests without regard to the application of the rule of law and due process: In interviews with 19 leading organizations in El Salvador, many organizers spoke about grave human rights abuses and their direct impact on ordinary Salvadorans. The delegation that traveled to El Salvador notes the enormous power and positive impact of decades-long community-led efforts to harness land, water, and other communal resources for the improvement of Salvadoran communities, inspirational progress that is under threat due to militarization of law enforcement and arbitrary crackdowns on ordinary citizens.
The co-authors of the report conclude their analysis with a strong recommendation to Bukele’s government to release and drop the charges against the Salvadoran water defenders and labor leaders, as well as a strong recommendations for the United States, Canada, Mexico and other nations to exert their influence over aid to El Salvador to hold the government accountable for human rights violations and demand critical protections for Salvadoran communities.
“We were shocked by the level of fear of arbitrary arrest among ordinary people in El Salvador today,” said John Cavanagh of the Institute for Policy Studies and a member of the delegation. “It is incumbent upon the United States, Canada, and other nations to show they respect democracy and the rule of law by speaking out against these unlawful arrests and the abuse of basic democratic principles.”
Report co-authors are available for further comment, information, and interviews in Spanish and English.
- John Cavanagh, Institute for Policy Studies: [email protected], +1 (202) 297-4823
- Pedro Cabezas, Central American Alliance against Mining (ACAFREMIN) and International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador: [email protected], +503-7498-4423
- Olivia Alperstein, Institute for Policy Studies, [email protected], +1 (202) 704-9011