Rapid Response Network (RRN) letters this month
21 AUG 2022
state repression: 46,000 arrested; 3,000 abused/tortured; 50 died in detention
We wrote to the attorney general and human rights ombudsman of El Salvador to express our concerns over the weakening of democracy in El Salvador, especially in light of the State of Exception, which was recently extended for the fourth time.
More than 46,000 suspected gang members have been arrested since the State of Exception, a government-declared crackdown on gang activity, was initiated on March 27. Maximum time-limits on pre-trial detention have been lifted. Journalists are under surveillance of spyware and criminalized for reporting on gang activity or the government’s response to it. Civil society organizations in El Salvador have documented more than 3,000 cases of abuse and torture, including the cases of 50 people who died while they were imprisoned in state detention centers. The University Observatory of Human Rights (OUDH) has documented 63 cases of cruel and degrading treatment, including cases of arbitrary arrests, deaths of detainees in custody, torture, and prison overcrowding.
One of the most emblematic cases of torture corresponds to a 14-year-old who was detained and tortured by agents of the National Civil Police (PNC). To force the teenager into confessing that he belonged to a gang, police submerged his head in water and clamped his fingers with pliers. Although the teenager was not a gang member, he was later taken to a gang cell, where the inmates also beat him. For twelve days, the police continued to beat him. His mother found him vomiting blood when he was finally released after a hearing.
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-08-21-000000 .
22 AUG 2022
assassinated: Fredid Román Román, journalist reporting on disappearance of 43 university students in Guerrero -- ¡presente!
Mexico ranks as the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists.
Fredid Román Román ran an online program called The Reality of Guerrero, which focused heavily on state-level politics. On August 22, he posted a story online about the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from the nearby city of Iguala. His story was released just days after a government truth commission declared the incident, and its coverup, a “crime of the state” that involved the participation and negligence of all layers of government. In a lengthy Facebook post, Fredid Román Román mentioned an alleged meeting between four officials at the time of the students’ disappearance, including former attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam, who was arrested after the publication of the truth commission report last week.
At around 4:40pm on August 22, Fredid Román Román was in his car, just having a left a journalism workshop that he teaches. Two people who were traveling on a blue motorcycle intercepted the journalist on Valerio Trujano street in Chilpancingo, the capital city of Guerrero State, and shot him to death.
The killing of Fredid Román Román causes us to be ever more disturbed by the general climate of impunity and inadequate security conditions for journalists in the state of Guerrero, and in the Republic of Mexico in general. Fredid Román Román became the 15th journalist killed in Mexico this year.
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-08-22-000000 .
23 AUG 2022
assassinated: five social leaders across four departments over the past month
A new president moved into the Palacio de Nariño in Bogotá on August 7, but the political violence continues. We wrote to President Petro demanding accountability for the assassinations of five social leaders in the departments of Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Tolima, and Putumayo over the past month. [Note: more than five were killed in the past month; we highlighted five in this letter.]
July 16, in Cauca: 25-year-old member of the Awá Indigenous guard Kiwe Thegna Jorge Eliécer Mejía.
July 18, in Cauca: Larry Reinoso Sánchez, co-founder and legal representative of the Association of Peasant Workers of the Cordillera (Asocordillera), was kidnapped; his dead body was discovered on July 21.
August 5, in Putumayo: Kedinyon Jeider García, member of the Human Rights Committee of the Community Action Board of the Brisas del Yurilla village, Puerto Guzmán
August 6, in Valle del Cauca: Javier Usechi, a renowned 42-year-old environmental and animal rights leader and founding member of the Tatayamba Social and Cultural Collective
August 12, in Tolima: Diomedes Bermúdez Aguirre, a signatory to the Peace Agreement and ex-FARC combatant enrolled in the official reincorporation process. He became the 32nd signatory to the Peace Agreement assassinated this year.
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-08-23-000000
24 AUG 2022
State repressions: police, military destroy crucial roadways of Indigenous communities in El Petén
The PNC (national police) and military have a long history of violating the rights of Indigenous communities with extreme violence. There have been several violent incidents reported around the Petén region and the Sierra del Lacandón National Park. Security forces are known to enforce the initiatives of private companies to install hydroelectric dams that pollute the local rivers and drinking water sources. They also enable the deforestation of biodiverse regions for industrial-scale agricultural plantations for the production of palm oil.
At around 2:00 am on August 17, 150 National Civil Police vehicles and 12 army trucks entered the communities of Nueva Jerusalem II and La Revancha, detonating explosives that left 12 large holes along the road, claiming to comply with a judicial order to destroy two alleged clandestine highways inside the Sierra del Lacandón National Park. It is curious that the roadways are described by authorities as “clandestine” since personnel of CONAP (National Council of Protected Areas) have themselves traveled by those roadways many times.
The roads were built by the local communities themselves—and maintained without government support—along paths that have existed for decades and used initially for transportation of agricultural products. These transportation routes are vital to ensure mobility during health emergencies.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-08-24-000000
25 AUG 2022
arrested: journalist, media outlet direct after reporting on corruption in President Giammattei’s administration
We wrote to officials in Guatemala to express our concern about the government’s pattern of restrictions on freedom of the press as demonstrated by the arrests of award-winning journalist José Rubén Zamora (on July 29) and Flora Silva, the finance director of the independent media outlet El Periódico (on August 19). The arrest of Zamora on baseless charges came five days after local outlets published strong criticism of various officials of President Giammattei’s administration involved in corruption.
Also arrested was assistant public prosecutor Samari Gómez Díaz on July 30, allegedly in connection with charges against José Rubén Zamora. Samari Gómez Díaz is one of at least five female prosecutors arrested and spuriously charged in the past seven months.
US tax dollars for decades have been provided to the Guatemalan government to improve the judicial system. That very system is being increasingly used to persecute those challenging corruption and fighting for justice. The arrest of José Rubén Zamora is part of an intensifying pattern of persecution and criminalization of justice operators, journalists, and human rights defenders. It is a grave abuse of the criminal justice system to target journalists and prosecutors known for investigating corruption to uphold the rule of law.
You can read the full letter at: https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-08-25-000000
26 AUG 2022
assassinated: Afro-descendant and Indigenous Awá community leaders in Nariño Department. María Piedad Aguirre and María Verónica Pai Cabeza --¡presente!
We wrote to officials in Colombia about the continued violence targeting Afro-descendant and Indigenous community leaders in Nariño Department. We demand investigations into the assassinations of María Piedad Aguirre and María Verónica Pai Cabeza who became the 104th and 109th social leaders assassinated in Colombia this year. Both were killed in Tumaco municipality, Nariño Department.
July 19: María Piedad Aguirre was a local leader of Caminos de Mujer (CCM) and Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN). She was assassinated in her home in the neighborhood of Los Angeles California, Tumaco.
August 1: María Verónica Pai Cabeza of the Piguambi Palangala Indigenous Awá reservation was killed with five shots in the village of Llorenete, Tumaco. She was six months pregnant, leaving two children orphaned.
In a statement rejecting the killing of María Verónica Pai Cabeza, traditional Awá authorities denounced the physical and cultural extermination to which they are subjected by illegal armed groups disputing the territory. On several occasions they have requested governmental support to contain the murders, massacres, forced disappearances, displacements, confinement, and mobility restrictions.
In addition to investigating the assassinations and prosecuting the responsible parties, we are urging that authorities in Colombia: (1) protect Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities from outside armed groups through state presence, abiding by parameters set by the communities, and (2) construct comprehensive and inclusive measures to implement the Peace Agreement, with approaches that focus on gender, territorial, and ethnic groups.
You can read the full letter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn/2022-08-26-000000
Rapid Response Network
InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia
3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113
(216) 961 0003. www.IRTFcleveland.org