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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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Since the Biden administration restarted the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program (CAM program), initionaly initiated by the Obama administration and later withdrawn by Trump, not much has happened. 

Underfunding and personal shortage at the nine national resettlement agencies led to the inability to handle the mass of applications. 

Due to this bottleneck only a few hundred cases filed before the Trump administration ended the program have been completed since March 2021.

For many children this slow processing of applications means waiting times of over a year and no information on how long it will take until they are reunited with their familes.

Organizations are now calling for the support of consuls to help the children with their application interviews and pass case information on to the waiting parents or guardians.  


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On September 2., The Committee of Family Members of Political Prisoners of El Salvador held a press conference announcing the delivery of letters to the Attorney General, Human Rights Ombudsman and the Supreme Court.

The letters signed by nearly 1.000  people and over 70 Organizations demand the release of political prisoners and the reinstatement of constitutional rights in the country. 

Following emergency measures suspending constitutional rights, over 50.000 people were arrested without warrants leading to at least 70 deaths in custody. 

Even though the prisoners remain in custody, the international media  coverage and outcall to the Attorney General, Human Rights Ombudsman and Supreme Court is a big leap towards change.


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David Morales, lawyer, former prosecutor and one of the most outspoken critics of El Salvador's Bukele government.

The lawyer who will receive this year's Human Rights Award from WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) has worked as a human rights activist  for years, criticizing El Salvador's judicial system.

His career started in 1990 as an investigator at the  Legal Protection Office of the Archbishop of San Salvador where he focused on the massacres of Rio Sumpul and El Mozote which occurred during the 1980's Salvadoran civil war. 

In 1995 Morales left the  Legal Protection Office and transferred to the PDDH (Procurador para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), a 1992 created  institution that exercised the most supervision over the first complaints of abuses that arose against the new National Civil Police (PNC) and the Attorneys General's Office. 

From 2013 on, he worked as an Ombudsman, taking lead in the investigation of extermination groups in the PNC.

The following article summerizes Morales' work and analyzes the human rights violations in El Salvador. 

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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The Family Court of San Salvador, in El Salvador, authorized "the first name change of a trans man" according to his gender identity, as reported Thursday by the Foundation of Studies for the Application of Law (Fespad). The organization indicated that "the process of change of name and adequacy of the mention of gender and sex in the identification documents was presented in March 2022. This is a milestone for the LGBTQ+ community and human rights activists in El Salvador, who so often have denounced the violence and discrimination suffered by their community, forcing them to flee the country. 

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Practicing journalism in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador is becoming increasingly difficult in the face of the persecution of independent media outlets by neo-populist rulers of different stripes, intolerant of criticism. The union of Guatemalan journalists and the reporter’s family say the arrest is a clear example of political persecution as a result of the investigations into corruption and mismanagement in the Giammattei administration published by the newspaper, which was founded in 1996. “I definitely believe it is a case of political persecution and harassment, and of violence against free expression and the expression of thought,” Ramón Zamora, son of the editor of elPeriódico who has been imprisoned since his arrest, told IPS from Guatemala City.

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IRTF's solidarity with the people of Central America began in El Salvador 41 years ago. Salvadorans fought long and hard to build democracy and far too many paid for it with their lives. Three decades since the end of the civil war, the struggle continues. Here we share an urgent action from our friends at CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), which echoes what we heard on August 5 in Cleveland from Leslie Schuld of the CIS (Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad). Thank you for taking a couple of minutes to read this and for taking the click action.

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In El Salvador, testimony from police officers and conflicting statistics on mass graves are leading critics to question if homicides in the Central American country are being fully reported as access to official information tightens. Documents from El Salvador's Institute of Legal Medicine, seen by Reuters, show authorities recovered 207 bodies from mass graves over two and a half years, between June 2019 and February 2022. In contrast, documents from the Attorney General Office show 158 bodies recovered in over three years, between January 2019 and February 2022 – a difference of 49. Human rights groups and family members of homicide victims say they are alarmed by this discrepancy. The confusion is partly caused by restrictions to previously public information across government agencies under President Nayib Bukele, they said.

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Yesenia Portillo, a Salvadoran American activist raised in Los Angeles, said there is a perception that Salvadorans in the U.S. are overwhelmingly supportive of Bukele. But Portillo said there are many in the U.S. who don't support him, and are “becoming more vocal about their concerns, especially as more political exiles arrive in the U.S." Portillo said that in El Salvador, there is more opposition to Bukele than polls reflect. “Feminists, LGBTI+, labor, and environmental organizations in El Salvador have been taking to the streets by the tens of thousands to criticize his policies and that often doesn’t get highlighted,” she said.