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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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A woman in El Salvador has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the death of her unborn child following an obstetric emergency, according to a rights group. The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion said on Monday that the 28-year-old woman, identified by the court only as “Esme”, had suffered a health emergency while pregnant in 2019 and sought assistance at a local hospital. She was later convicted of homicide and handed the lengthy sentence after serving two years of pre-trial detention, according to the group. The case is the first of its kind in the past seven years in the country, the group said. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador, even in cases of rape and when the woman’s health is in danger.

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Far from providing tools to protect citizens from violence, the state of emergency has represented a threat to everybody’s human rights. The government seems to be using it as an excuse to introduce unwarranted restrictions on human rights and civil liberties, to further its campaign to  silence political opponents, civil society organizations, and independent media, taking over the judiciary, and seeking other self-serving purposes. The introduction of legal reforms such as those made to the Penal Code on April 5 to criminalize media or journalists who “reproduce and transmit messages from or presumably from gangs that could generate uneasiness or panic in the population” are a clear illustration of the lengths Bukele is prepared to go to in order to ensure nobody criticizes him.

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In scenes that were chillingly reminiscent of the 1980s, in the midst of the ongoing State of Emergency in El Salvador, the state put up many now-standard obstacles to those who came out to march: intimidating searches by the military and over 20 police barricades blocking highways and turning away buses across the country. But the people were determined. With tremendous courage, labor unions and popular organizations held fast to their claim to May 1 as thousands took to the streets.

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Reproductive rights activists across Latin America have vowed to protect hard-fought gains in their own territories as they brace for potential ripple effects if the US supreme court overturns Roe vs Wade – the 1973 ruling which guarantees the right to abortion. Latin America has some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the world. But feminist movements have fought for decades to chip away at the prohibitions, and in recent years a younger, diverse generation of activists has mobilized in massive numbers to help clinch a string of victories in traditionally conservative countries.

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On April 25, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly extended for another 30 days a state of emergency enacted the month prior in response to escalating gang violence. Since enacting the state of emergency on March 27, the Legislative Assembly has gone on to approve a series of measures proposed by President Nayib Bukele that allow judges to imprison children as young as 12, restrict freedom of expression, and dangerously expand the use of pretrial detention and counterterrorism legislation. More than 17,000 have been arrested under the degree, which restricts the right to gather, to be informed of rights upon detention, and access to a lawyer, as well as allows phone calls and emails to be intercepted without a court order. CISPES shares excerpts of an analysis of the situation by human rights experts in El Salvador.

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Five human rights groups reported Wednesday there have been complaints of at least 338 violations of human rights during El Salvador's massive arrests of suspected gang members. The most frequently cited abuse was arbitrary arrest, as well as illegal searches of homes, injuries, robbery and the death of a detainee. The roundups, begun in late March after a spike in homicides, have resulted in the arrest of over 24,000 presumed gang members.

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador is going on a 4-day tour of Central America to talk about the possible migration surge if Title 42 is ended by the Biden Administration. The Mexican leader has urged the United States to invest in economic development in Central America to generate jobs so people do not need to flee poverty. US President Joe Biden "agrees that the causes must be addressed, but Central America is still waiting for several billion dollars pledged by Washington.

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Human rights groups on Monday criticized the massive arrests of suspected gang members in El Salvador. The roundups, begun in late March after a spike in homicides, have resulted in the arrest of over 22,000 presumed gang members. “A growing amount of evidence indicate that Salvadoran authorities have committed serious human rights violations since the emergency decree was approved" on March 27, according to a report by Human Rights Watch and the Cristosal Foundation.

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