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El Salvador: News & Updates

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The US-backed civil war, which erupted after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980, lasted 12 years (1980-92), killing 70,000 people and forcing 20% of the nation’s five million people to seek refuge in the US.

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More than two months on hunger strike have wreaked havoc on the health of Florenzi workers, so they decided to drop the measure and celebrate the progress in their cases.
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“Women Organized in Resistance” reads the banner hanging on the wall behind these women textile workers who are making their struggle very public. Draped over the table where they sit is another banner: “Together We Break the Chains.” Rina Vargas explains what’s going on: “Today marks the 55th day of the hunger strike and we can affirm that the Salvadoran State and the institutionality that it defends so much has failed the working class. The constitution of the republic is used at the convenience of economic power, the foreign-owned companies are defended, but thousands of workers who produce wealth in this country are abandoned.”
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Prior to and throughout the campaign period, environmental, youth, women’s, feminist, union and other social movement organizations voiced concerns over pre-electoral violence and false allegations of fraud made by President Bukele and Nuevas Ideas intended to undermine confidence in El Salvador's democratic institutions. For months, the Bukele administration accused election officials of conspiracy to commit fraud. In response, Nuevas Ideas supporters and the National Civil Police (PNC) physically attacked and arrested election workers in November of last year, among other incidents of intimidation aimed at members of the TSE. Political violence escalated on January 31, when two members of the FMLN were shot and killed by government employees. The attack, considered one of the worst in decades, prompted Members of Congress to write a letter to the State Department expressing concerns that “political dialogue has devolved into themes of intolerance, violence, bribery, and corruption.”
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On July 1, 2020, more than 200 workers were fired from the Industrias Florenzi textile factory without receiving salaries, bonuses, or full severance payments (as required by law). A few days after the dismissals, factory personnel took over the facilities where the hunger strikers continue to demand justice. Many unions and other organizations in El Salvador are supporting this feminist struggle and are offering the former workers workshops on labor rights, gender, education and sexual health. Some say it has helped them empower themselves personally and in their work cause.
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The Latin America Working Group (based in Washington, DC) has been monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights across the region. This blog is focused specifically on the impact of the pandemic on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. The following are brief summaries that capture the situation for women and members of the LGBTQ+ community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and to call attention to the lack of support and urgency behind addressing this violence by these governments.
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[IRTF note: See RRN letter Feb 12 2021 in response to the violence that is addressed in this news article.] Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez of San Salvador asked the country to pray "for liberation from Satan" Feb. 1 after violence erupted following a political rally in the capital of El Salvador late Jan. 31. "The devil is running loose in El Salvador, there are many demons on the loose," Cardinal Rosa Chavez said at the end of his homily at St. Francis Church in San Salvador. He compared the Gospel of the day, about Jesus casting out demons from a man possessed, to the deadly incident that took place the previous night. Gunmen shot and killed two FMLN party activists returning from the rally, injuring others. Some are calling the incident the "most serious act of political violence" in almost three decades since peace accords ended the country's civil war in 1992. Three suspects were captured. The Salvadoran attorney general said those under custody were part of a security team for the minister of health, who belongs to the political party of President Nayib Bukele. "This is serious, the electoral contest cannot become a bloodbath," tweeted Salvadoran Attorney General Raúl Melara, referring to the upcoming elections for mayors and the Legislative Assembly on Feb. 28. "Let's entrust to the Lord, this morning, this country that is, that has so many demons," Cardinal Rosa Chavez said. "This is how the political campaign begins ... Why can't points of view be presented with simplicity, respect, tolerance? Why do they resort to violence, verbal, offenses, insults, threats? May God help us so we can have a civilized campaign, as it should be."
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On the evening of January 31, gunmen opened fire on a group of supporters of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The group, traveling in a pickup truck covered with FMLN signs, was returning from a day of campaigning for the upcoming February 28 mayoral and legislative elections in San Salvador. Gloria Rogel del Cid and Juan de Dioz Tejada, veterans of the armed conflict [in the 1970s, 80s, 90s, that pitted the Salvador people against brutal US-backed military regimes], died, and at least two more were injured. This State-linked repression was carried out by yet another military-backed, autocratic regime with full economic, military and political relations with the US and Canada. Like the Honduran and Guatemalan regimes, the El Salvador government is considered a “democratic ally” in support of the United States’ anti-democratic efforts in the region, such as the desire to overthrow the government of Venezuela.

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