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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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In a court hearing in San Salvador on April 10, a judge upheld charges against five anti-mining activists known as the Santa Marta Five. The activists, arrested in January 2023, face charges of "illicit association" and an alleged murder dating back to the Salvadoran Civil War. Supporters believe that Bukele's administration targets them for their roles in the country's mining ban. Despite being granted house arrest in August 2023, international support calls for justice, as concerns arise over the motive behind their criminalization and its threat to the mining ban.

The Santa Marta Five, including Teodoro Antonio Pacheco and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega, are esteemed community leaders who fought against the US-backed military dictatorship in the 1980s. They played pivotal roles in rebuilding their community post-civil war and organizing against foreign mining companies in the 2010s, leading to the historic mining ban of 2017. However, their detention under Bukele's administration raises concerns about legal rights.

Bukele's rise to power signifies a shift from the promises of the 1992 peace accords, as his administration undermines democratic principles and human rights. Despite his efforts to combat gang violence, his tactics, including indefinite detention without due process, draw criticism. The state of exception, declared in 2022 and now permanent, suspends civil and political rights, posing a threat to human rights and the rule of law. The broader implications extend to environmental activism and economic interests, overshadowing the fight against gang violence.

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To read the full article: Migrant Justice Newsletter - April 2024 | InterReligious Task Force on Central America (

Welcome to IRTF’s March 2024 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border. After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a few minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom. In this newsletter, please read about : 1.  Changing Trends in Migrants at US-Mexico Border. 2. ICE Air: Update on Removal Flight Trends . 3. Study Reveals: Border Wall Height Exacerbates Trauma Incidents . 4. At the Border: Recent . Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border . 5. Border Patrol and Local Law Enforcement’s Patterns of Abuse in Ohio’s Immigration Enforcement. 6. Raising the Credible Fear Screening Standard Will Endanger Lives but Won’t Fix The Border . 7. Children in US-Mexico Border Camps. 8. Migrants Mired in Transit as Mexico Becomes US’s Immigration Enforcer. 9. Kidnapping of Migrants and Asylum Seekers at Texas-Tamaulipas Border Reaches Intolerable Levels . 10.  Migrant Deaths in New Mexico and Western Texas . 11. Human Rights in the Darién Gap of Panamá.

 TAKE ACTION NOW. Here is what you can do to take action this week in solidarity with migrants and their families. (See details at the bottom of this newsletter.) A) SPEAK UP FOR DEMOCRACY IN EL SALVADOR. B)  SPEAK UP FOR PEOPLE IN HAITI. C) STOP DEPORTATIONS TO HAITI . D) PROTECT UNACCOMPANIED MINORS. E) VISIT CAPITOL HILL: #ReuniteUS. F) HELP REFUGEES & MIGRANTS IN CLEVELAND. 


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The people of El Salvador have been living under a State of Exception, purportedly implemented to combat gang violence, for two years now. During that time, Salvadoran civil society groups and international organizations have documented serious human rights violations committed against thousands of people detained under the pretext of this security policy. The question now being raised is: might the violations being committed under El Salvador’s current security policies amount to crimes against humanity?

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The government of El Salvador has maintained a state of emergency and implemented amendments to criminal law that erode fundamental human rights such as the presumption of innocence and the right to defense. This approach has been criticized by Amnesty International and other organizations for disregarding international human rights obligations. Reports indicate numerous cases of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, prison overcrowding, and deaths in state custody. Human rights defenders and dissenting voices face increased risks and persecution. The government's response to allegations of human rights violations has been characterized by denial and minimization. Without corrective action, the situation is likely to worsen, leading to more violations and a deepening crisis. It's imperative for the international community to condemn any security strategy that relies on human rights abuses and to advocate for comprehensive policies that respect human rights and address the root causes of violence.

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The historic reelection of Nayib Bukele and the New Ideas Party in El Salvador's recent election is marked by various firsts, including the introduction of online voting and voting locations abroad. Despite widespread anticipation of Bukele's victory due to his high approval ratings, the election was marred by controversies and irregularities. Bukele, known for his tough stance on crime, has seen a dramatic decrease in the homicide rate during his tenure, but this has been accompanied by concerns over human rights abuses and mass imprisonments without convictions. The election saw reports of electioneering violations and intimidation tactics, tarnishing what could have been seen as a clear democratic mandate. The outcome underscores the complexities surrounding Bukele's presidency and raises questions about the integrity of the electoral process.

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Nayib Bukele's recent reelection as President of El Salvador, despite constitutional limitations, has sparked concerns about his leadership style dubbed the "Bukele Model." Douglas Farah of IBI Consultants highlights several worrying aspects of this model:

  1. Authoritarian tendencies: Bukele's approach echoes strategies seen in other 21st-century political movements, including undermining checks and balances and consolidating power.
  2. Lack of transparency: Government activities are less transparent, with diminished accountability and restricted public access to information.
  3. Complex ties with gangs: There's a concerning integration of gangs into the political structure, alongside unsustainable mass incarceration policies.
  4. Weakening of institutions: Independence and professionalism within key institutions like the police, military, and judiciary are eroding.
  5. Human rights concerns: Despite touted security gains, the human rights cost is high, with a significant number of arrests and alleged abuses.

Farah argues that while Bukele's security model is praised publicly, its efficacy may be overstated, and it comes with significant human rights implications. Additionally, Farah points out Bukele's adoption of authoritarian tactics, including media control and suppression of dissent.

He also addresses concerns about the influence of China, suggesting it's overstated, and advocates for a more consistent critique from the Biden administration regarding anti-democratic trends in El Salvador.

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The article reports coordinated attacks on LGBTI+ communities in El Salvador by President Nayib Bukele and Argentinian President Javier Milei following their speeches at the CPAC conference. Milei focused on banning inclusive gender language in the government, while Bukele's government removed gender and sexual diversity references from schools and healthcare clinics. In response, the "Movimiento Ampliado LGBT+ de El Salvador" released a statement on Zero Hate Day, criticizing the attacks as a smokescreen to divert attention from broader societal issues, such as economic struggles, police abuse, and a democratic crisis. The statement emphasizes that targeting the LGBTI+ community will not address systemic problems and calls for solidarity, denouncing injustice and organizing against discrimination.

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CISPES brought together U.S. human rights and faith organizations to call on the Biden administration to heed reports from opposition parties, international observer missions and civil society organizations in El Salvador regarding systematic irregularities throughout the February 4 presidential and legislative elections. Read the letter.

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In El Salvador's recent elections on February 4, President Nayib Bukele, accused of rigging the system and suppressing opposition, faced technical issues as the platform for uploading preliminary results crashed. A recount revealed allegations of fraud, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election. Bukele's prior actions, including unconstitutional reelection bids, authoritarianism, and reforms favoring his party, had already raised concerns about free and fair elections. The State of Exception, ongoing since March 2022, has led to mass arrests, repression of opposition, and control over public institutions. Despite concerns about the election process, Bukele's party, New Ideas (NI), secured a supermajority in the legislature. The results have sparked calls for the elections to be reconvened amid doubts about democratic conditions and the integrity of the electoral process. The opposition, including the Popular Rebellion and Resistance Bloc, has rejected the results, and claims have been submitted to annul the election. The discrepancy between Bukele's popularity and that of his legislators suggests skepticism among Salvadoran voters about one-party rule and raises questions about the true extent of Bukele's support.