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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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News Article

El Salvador's State of Emergency, impeimented in March, has led to immense cuts in civil liberties.

It empowerd the police to arrest without warrents, causing 55,000 arrests since March.

This development alarms human rights groups, who criticise the curtailing of the right to a lawyer, the right to be informed about the reason for the arrest, detention for up to 15 days without charges and the reduction of the criminal responsibility age to 12 years. 

In spite of these criticisms, El Salvador's Legislative Assembly has voted in favor of an extension of the State of Emergency several times; recenlty on October 14.

To keep up with the masses of imprisonments, the government is building a new jail desinged to hold 40.000 suspected criminals.    

News Article

As Fiscal Year 2022 is almost over, we are hearing numbers of 750 or more migrant deaths over the past twelve months. While, tragically, it does still happen that migrants die while being chased by Border Patrol agents or shot when attempting to cross the border, the majority of these deaths are a result of the so-called “prevention through deterrence” strategy that forces people to take on more dangerous routes when traveling up to the southern U.S. border to seek safety. And if they do make it through to the U.S., they are often expelled immediately or put into deportation proceedings, waiting for their hearing in Mexican emergency shelters or U.S. detention centers. Read IRTF's monthly overview of recent updates on U.S. immigration and what has been happening at the border!

News Article

For over six months now the country of El Salvador has been in a State of Exception (similar to a declared State of Emergency).

This is a temporary suspension of some constitutional rights that enables the government to repeal basic human rights as well as democratic structures. 

The current government under president Nayib Bukele officially initiated the State of Exception as a means to counter gang violence, but uses it to rule the country with an iron fist.

In this time span corruption and human rights violations have risen to new highs.

One of the rights that has been suspended is the 2011 enacted "Law on Access to Public Information" (LAIP), guaranteeing the right to seek and receive information held by the state. With this law expelled, the government has eliminated any public control over the the use of funds and state contracts, opening the door for corruption. According to the Office of the General Attorney, up to 66% of state purchases showed signs of irregularities in their procedures. 

Besides the staggering rise of corruption, the State of Exception drags a trail of state violence and oppression. Under the pretext of the struggle against gang violence, massive power abuse by police and armed forces has been reported. Up until September the state has detained over 52,549 people without warrants and has sent 45,260  individuals to prison during mass hearings. 

The policies have led to overcrowded prisons, causing a lack of basic human needs and at least 73 deaths due to torture, lack of medical assistance, hunger and other violence. The number of unreported cases is estimated to far surpass the official numbers. 


News Article

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.  


News Article

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.


News Article

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. 

News Article

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.

News Article

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. 

News Article

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.